India has one of the largest global populations and its growing at a rapid rate, which is why education becomes a priority, especially in terms of policy and social action. There are many governmental and non-governmental organisations that are involved in this. Every child below the age of fourteen has the right to free education. Even though the enrolment rates have significantly improved in the last few decades, due to limited funds and not enough prioritisation of education, government schools fail to impart holistic learning to the children. This is why many Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in India work for the education of the underprivileged children.
However, these NGOs face many challenges as well. Different NGOs have had different solutions to the problems and they have affected the learning of the children in different ways. Education as a whole is dynamic and is constantly changing in order to continue to be relevant to the children that they are catering to. One of the major problems that many NGOs face is a lack of funds and other resources. This means that for every child that they are able to educate, there are many children that they are not able to accommodate. More funding is the only thing that may actually make a difference in this problem, one that is constantly aggravating.
However today we have seen a positive shift wherein there is almost universal enrolment of children in schools and now it is expected that parents educate the children too. However, a tougher problem to tackle is one of ensuring a good quality of education, where children are actually learning and developing their skills. Something that has been noticed in many government schools and NGOs is that children may be going through school without having the knowledge and skills that are expected from them according to the curriculum. Here Pratham, one such non-profit organisation has tried to evaluate this gap. Pratham has also started a practice where they take groups of children with the same level of skill in reading or math and work on improving their skills. There was tremendous improvement seen in just 30 days.
In addition to this, many children are enrolled but don’t attend school and many children drop out of school. There are varied reasons for this. Some of which include, parents not wanting to send their children to school and children having to earn some income to help support their families. Many NGOs talk to the parents about the importance of education and try to convince them to send their children to school. Stricter implementation of the right to education act may help improve the situation here.
Another problem is that there are fewer girls who go to school. This happens for a variety of reasons which include the fact that parents think that women belong only in the domestic sphere and therefore don’t need an education. If schools are far away from their homes, many families think that it is unsafe for their daughters to attend schools. Many NGOs therefore prioritise the admission of girls. However, there will still continue to be a discrepancy in the gender ratio till there is a change in peoples mindsets.
These NGOs also have to cater to many differently abled children. Children also face many developmental and learning disorders like autism, ADHD, dyslexia etc. Therefore, they need to be able to present the information in such a way that they are able to effectively communicate with the students. In Salaam Baalak, a lot of the staff and many interns had to pick up basic sign language to communicate with a child with a hearing impairment. In addition to this, these schools have to deal with a variety of mental health problems. These include depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder etc.
Thus, you can see that in the present scenario, education is not an easy task. This does not mean that there has not been any change or that there will be no change. In fact, every success story that we can see coming out of these NGOs, is a ray of hope. However this hope can only be actualised with concentrated efforts made to deal with the many challenges that they are faced with and to continue working for the betterment of the children despite all adversities.
Picture Credits : povertyactionlab.org