Right to Education
Kashmir is in search of a conducive atmosphere
IMPRESSIONS BY UDAY SHANKER
PRIME Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh April 1 made a landmark commitment to the nation that every child in India would get right to education and all children would have doors of schools opened for them now onwards.. The man, who himself struggled – walking on foot long distances to reach school from his village Dah in pre-1947 era, and studied under the dim light of a kerosene lamp, to become Prime Minister of India, has all the idea of how difficult it is to reach school and get education.
Dr. Singh has also seen the bloodbath of Partition and the conflict that followed. But that has passed like a bad memory for him . He is looking forward to a great future of India and its people. It, indeed, is a laudable effort in a country which was free of shackles of the British rule more than 62 years ago and is counted as one among the top progressing nations in the world. And, no nation can be powerful and achieve its full potential unless its population is educated; India has more than one billion souls. There is a wild guess as to many more would be there when 2011 census is made public.
The Prime Minister underlined some of the significant aspects of his call for school for all children. India, he said, owes its strength to the education of children. And he had a very strong reason to say that. Unlike Europe and the United States of America, where population is aging, India is a nation of young people, given the fertility rate of our men and women, though the land as such is experiencing droughts, causing food shortage and other difficulties.
There can be no dispute over the fact that, as underscored by Dr. Singh : “ Education is the key to progress. It empowers the individual. It enables a nation,” and he went on to say in his extraordinary address to the nation on April 1 : “It is the belief of our government that if we nurture our children and young people with the right education, India’s future as a strong and prosperous country is secure.”
A guideline was also sketched. “We are committed to ensuring that all children, irrespective of gender and social category have access to education. An education that enables them to acquire the skills, knowledge, values and attitudes necessary to become responsible and active citizens of India.
“ To realise the Right to Education the government at the Centre, in the States and Union Territories, and at the district and village level must work together as part of a common national endeavour. I call upon all the State Governments to join in this national effort with full resolve and determination. Our government, in partnership with the State governments will ensure that financial constraints do not hamper the implementation of the Right to Education Act.” These words of Prime Minister are quite encouraging.
But a stark reality is that it has taken more than 62 years for the government to make right to education a fundamental right. The government could have done so before as well. After all, there were visionaries, heading the government at the federal level, before Dr. Singh and there are names like Pandit jawahar Lal Nehru, Mr. Lal Bhadhur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, Mr. P V Narsimha Rao and Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The condition of government schools, sans buildings, black boards ( in the era of computers), adequate staff (there are more vacancies of teachers than those on rolls). In such conditions, the biggest challenge before Prime Minister is to ensure that the existing system is put in place and the education should be made attractive and a result oriented proposition in the government schools, far ahead of the private sector. The world order has changed. The Indian order needs a change.
Motivating children and parents to be part of the system is another challenge. In a country where more than half of population is living below the poverty line, the intervention of mid-day meal, free uniform, books, has not helped in promoting the education.
Dr. Singh and his government must have been bestowed with right intentions expressed through appealing words. It is not rhetoric, but there are plenty Of challenges staring all over. Easier said than done that every child would get enrolled into school and would receive elementary education. But it doesn’t work that way. No one knows it better than the Prime Minister himself.
Besides the challenges at the national level, the government of India has a big task at hand in Jammu and Kashmir, the Valley in particular. There is a huge population of children born in the times of violence, crackdowns, midnight knocks, searches, frisking of their parents, gun battles in their neighbhourhood, grenades and bomb explosions. A normal childhood is out of their life.
They are part of a daily struggle of their parents, if they are surviving, in making life to move on. If they are orphans, and a latest international study has suggested the number is more than 100,000, the life is weighed down by a mountain of struggles. For them the lap of mother has been a dream because she had to work at places to bring up children. It is no exaggeration by any stretch of imagination that these children with decimated childhood are doing odd jobs to help their single mothers or siblings to survive in this world.
For them, schools are buildings meant for those born to parents who don’t have to worry about day to day things like earning enough money to bring rice home in the evenings. For them schools are out of bounds because they are unable to think of entering the portals of learning, as they cannot afford books, uniform and more importantly, time to spare out of their daily work.
Prime Minister did good thing to cite his own example, with a hope that it would serve as an inspiration for the children to get enrolled in class rooms . His inspirational words of long distances and dim lights, the combination of which steeled him and made him to scale academic heights, lose meaning in a situation in which Kashmir is living. The children don’t have a sense of security.
Obviously Dr. Singh, as a child, didn’t have to face that kind of insecurity , where children are growing in an atmosphere of deep suspicion and recurring bouts of violence. They are caught in a cult of “Mujahadeen” and soldiers. Even those who go to school have to remain confined to their homes, have to hear the midnight knocks and are unsure when a gun battle will break out and they would have to huddle in one room or move out with their parents , away from the battle scenes, which, at times are their homes.
There are other problems too.. Teachers in government schools , scan the newspapers for “ shutdown” calls, if they themselves are not on strike. And the things have been further worsened because of a concept of Rehabar-e- Taleem in the state, which has become another industry of dodging the real education.
Here, the challenge is simple: government has to create a conducive atmosphere for enabling the people to avail right to education. First of all, a violence-free atmosphere needs to be created and all the concerned parties, should pledge themselves to allow the children of Kashmir to be in schools, rather than on streets and try to see a larger picture that by depriving the children of their education in the existing system, they are perpetuating a crisis. That serves no one’s interest. It’s as simple as that.
(The author is a senior journalist based in Delhi and writes regularly for Greater Kashmir)
Lastupdate on : Mon, 5 Apr 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 5 Apr 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 6 Apr 2010 00:00:00 IST
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