Children are the future of every nation and of the world. They deserve global attention constantly to and achieve progress. Child’s psychology becomes a nation’s psychology which then shapes the chessboard of international affairs. For this, schooling/education is the stepping stone which demands that no children should remain out of school. But Out-of- School Children (OoSC) and youth, not enrolled children, dropouts and never- enrolled students is a worldwide phenomenon now.
This is due to similarity in human psychology/needs/wants/desires and difference in economic, financial, employment & infrastructure conditions. Never enrolled means children enrolled at no time in the past or at no time in future. Government of India based survey defines a dropout as an “ever enrolled person” who does not complete the last level of education for which he/she has been enrolled and is currently not attending any educational institution. Not enrolled students are those who wish to remain active in their programme but do not enroll for classes and are not on Leave of Absence. Likewise OoSc is defined as a child who is either never enrolled or not been to school for more than 45 days without prior information. It is interestingly strange that when a section of people is worried about fighting the possible would-be irrelevance of human beings vis-à-vis technological revolution, world at large is spotted with the basic problem of OoSC also.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s Institute for Statistics(UIS), about 59 million children of primary school age, 62 million of lower secondary school age and 138 million of upper secondary school age totaling to 258 million children & youth were out of school for the year ended 2018. “As countries strive to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030, the UIS. is providing the data and analysis needed to reach the children and youth who remain excluded from education. Through its website, publications, data visualizations, the UIS aims to strengthen the availability of detailed internationally-comparable data on OoSC and youth to make it possible to better identify who they are, where they are, and the barriers they face”. UIS is the Statistical Office of the UNESCO and is the treasure for internationally comparable statistics on education, science, culture, communication and technology. In India Census 2011 estimated the number of OoSC in the age group of 5-17 years at 8.4 crore. However, a survey commissioned in 2014 by Ministry of Human Resource Development (GoI) disclosed the number of OoSC in the age bracket of 6-13 years as 60.64 lakh only. Some other estimates put it at more than 4.5 crore for 2014. The National Sample Survey Organisation in 2017-18 household survey in India put the number of OoSC in the age group of 6-17 years as 3.22 crore. The widely different figures of lakhs and crores within a brief stint of three years leaves one guessing the reality. However, considering the scope of the three variant age intervals and years there is statistically much to believe in and reconcile the varying data.
As per news reports there is a good number of OoSC in Jammu and Kashmir (JK). The School Education Department of Government of JK conducted last survey during 2016 and no survey was conducted since then. The survey stated that JK had an estimated 27,500 OoSC comprising two categories of never enrolled and the dropouts. During a Project Approval Board Meeting in 2017 the department of school education of JK disclosed that there were 27355 OoSC of which 10942 would be enrolled in the relevant schools during 2017-18. But that target too did not appear to have matured. The Ministry of Education GoI provided some funds also to the state government and stressed repeatedly the need for achieving the targets of mainstreaming the OoSC by JK but the satisfactory results remained awaited. Viewing the un-matching performance of JK the GoI asked the State School Education Department in 7/2019 to conduct a fresh survey to identify the OoSC in all the districts across JK. Following the GoI directions the JK government roped in an NGO to conduct a fresh survey on pilot basis in two districts of Budgam from Kashmir side and Samba from Jammu. These two districts were chosen because of presence and operation of a large number of brick kilns in Budgam where scores of children get involved in child labour. Reason for Samba districts was its huge industrial activity which also engages large number of children at a tender age for various jobs. These/such children are either dropouts or never enrolled ones.
With due consideration to the subject and to keep track of education of children across JK, the school education department has e-launched in 3/2021 the “Talaash” app for mainstreaming of OoSC. The digital application has a mobile application and a web-based application both for data collection and tracking of OoSC with a dashboard for reporting purpose. The application enables easy use on smart phones by teachers and others concerned conducting the survey and mapping. On and after identification the application will facilitate effective monitoring, tracking and enrolment in schools and special training programmes thereto. The application will also help develop profiles of dropouts for easier, quicker access and accurate tracking. There are various provisions regarding enrolment of OoSC in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE)Act, 2009. Ministry of Education guidelines on Special Training and Ministry of Human Resource Development Clarification on provisions of RTE Act,2009. Remedial measure welcome but unless and until causes are addressed results will be far from satisfactory. There are a number of causes leading to exclusion from education of children at most of the places. Poor family background, poor thinking, paucity of finance, distance between school and the residence or school coming/going point, inadequate /unsafe means of transport, lack of communication, monotonous curriculum & method of teaching, duration of schooling, teacher-taught relation & behavior, insufficient and inefficient school infrastructure, learning & teaching methodology, costs of education, follow-up-action at home, natural inclination of children to play truant, school/teaching place environment, peer pressure, ailing parents, livelihood & shelter problem are some of the causes and reasons that force children to be out of school to make their both ends meet. ‘Talaash’ (which means search in Urdu) and such other applications or programs will fructify and achieve their aims & objectives only when those excluded from education get enrolled in schools and there are no further exclusions from education at least now onwards or the number of OoSC is minimal as possible. For this basic causes are to be substituted with their opposites. Moreover data and technology may also be used for identification and tracking. The ways & means of recovery may be incentivized comfortably and honourably. Pray that ‘Talaash’ may result in finding & filling the voids in enrolments expeditiously and enkindle the put off lamps.
The author is a former Sr. Audit Officer and Consultant in the A.G’s Office Srinagar.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.