Communities: New sentinels of quality grassroots education


New Delhi : Community and voluntary organisations have a crucial role to play in the delivery of quality education at the grassroots in the country with 42 million children aged between six and 14 still outside the purview of the recently-passed Right to Education law.

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A two-day workshop, “Community as Vigilante: The Role of Community-Based Monitoring (CBM) for Building Ownership and Ensuring Accountability in Education”, by global non-profit network Oxfam here, is showcasing community-based initiatives in primary education in villages from states like Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh to demonstrate community monitoring is the most effective tool to implement the Right to Education Bill.

The workshop was inaugurated Tuesday.

“The Right to Education Bill, passed recently after a 16-year struggle, provides the right to universal free elementary education to a child. But the country has at least 100 non-profit organisations which cater to the needs of 13 million children. At least 50 to 60 organisations are working on how communities define their role in providing quality education. They can ensure that large-scale quality education can be imparted under the bill and related infrastructure can be set up around education,” Avinash Kumar, essential services lead specialist, told IANS, explaining the objective of the workshop.

The Right to Education Bill as it stands now is more diluted than the draft which gave more teeth to the School Management Committee — represented by the parents and teachers. Under the draft, the SMCs had the right to call back a teacher but that clause was removed in the bill, he said.

Many community-based groups working in the states in remote dalit and tribal areas are demanding more power to the school management committee for greater civil society participation, Kumar said.

One such model is the Samajshala, which is in force in the villages of Marathwada and Vidharbha. “It is a community-based model for providing quality and equitable primary education,” says Kumar.

Implemented by a network of NGOs working on child rights like Bal Hakk Abhiyan, Intermon Oxfam, Indian Institute of Education (IIE), along with two independent education institutions, the project seeks to raise awareness in the community about the role of the gram panchayats in education, whether parents should be given a voice in planning education modules and why is control of primary education not in the hands of those who benefit from it.

The Samajshala model proposes the constitution of a School Management Board with a “healthy representation of women, members of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and parents” and expose them to “how reputed schools function in cities through spot visits”.

Formed in 1987, the Bodh Model – currently underway in the fringe areas in Jaipur and Alwar in Rajasthan – operates through Bodhshalas (community resource schools) that engages the community in education. The implementing body, Bodh Shiksha Samiti, conducts household surveys, weekly and monthly meetings, street performances and film shows to create a conducive environment to provide formal education to children in backward communities.

The Lokmitra community education model operating out of Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh provides education to children in slums.

It has “introduced participatory governance to improve functioning of government schools through multi-level parents’ associations,” Kumar said.

A look at the country’s statistics is alarming.

“Forty-two million children in the age-group 6-14 years do not attend school and 16.29 percent schools in the country still do not have two teachers. Uttar Pradesh faces difficulty to provide even a single teacher in 921 primary schools. The average pupil teacher in the backward regions is one teacher for every 80 children, compared to accepted ratio of 1:40. And more than 50 percent children enrolled in primary schools dropout before completing class V,” Kumar said.

The workshop will frame key recommendations Wednesday to present to the state governments and the Centre for a “more effective grassroots elementary education model”.