Let’s start from education
In recent years, several major announcements have been made for improving the state of education in our country. The government has vowed to increase expenditure on and quality of education, ensure that no one is denied education due to economic backwardness and poverty, and to make the right to education a fundamental right for all children in the age group 6-14. Yet, according to UNICEF, 29 percent of girls and boys drop out of school before completing the full cycle of elementary education, most belonging to the most marginalized communities.
While the enrollment ratio of children in school has been increasing over the years with 96.5% of rural children being enrolled in school, according to a 2012 ASER report. Yet the dropout rate remains high, and the quality of education low in the rural areas.
To shed light on the reality of the education system in rural India, we focused on Uttar Pradesh, a state with a literacy rate of only 67.68% as per the 2011 Census. Moreover, UP has the worst pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) in India, with a teacher for every 39 students at the primary level, according to the Unified-District Information System for Education (U-DISE) Flash Statistics 2015-16.
Backed by a meager sum accumulated through the generous donations of our crowdfunding patron, we set out to explore the condition of education in villages around Jaunpur and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh in January, 2019, for our campaign “Let’s start from education” to spread awareness about the importance of education at the primary and secondary levels.
Tapas foundation visited a number of schools in rural UP and interacted with thousands of children, and explored their everyday struggles in attaining quality education. Most of the schools did not have adequate infrastructure and could not manage to capture the interest and attention of students, who were rather put to work in the form of informal child labour to support their marginalized and extremely poor families.
What we realized was that the problem of why the children were out of school despite constant efforts being made to keep them in school by the authorities, were manifold. The problem has many determinants. Most of these children, belonging to extremely poor families, don’t even have access to the necessary resources needed for attaining basic education. Their parents, who cannot afford to feed them well send them to school in hopes of getting them nutrition through the midday meal programs, after which they quickly run back home.
Such are the loopholes in the rural educational infrastructure that it keeps from any meaningful transfer of knowledge. Most of these children end up getting trapped in cycles of perpetual poverty with little knowledge and resources to better their condition.