In another disturbing indication of the state of education in Madhya Pradesh, fresh census data has revealed that almost 25 lakh children in the age group of six to 14 years are out of school.
The data ‘population attending educational institutions by age, sex and type of educational institution’ is the latest of the series under Census 2011.
It shows that of the 1.51 crore-odd children (6-14 years) in MP, as many as 24,76,810 (16.33%) were not attending any educational institution.
Of these, 19.63 lakh children never attended any educational institute while other 5.13 lakh dropped out at different levels.
The Right to Education (RTE) Act provisions free and compulsory education for all children in the 6-14 age bracket in the country and the state government has been running a special campaign to ensure that all such children get enrolled in schools.
However, activists and experts have been pointing out that the ground level situation was different with many children still not enrolled, many enrolled only for namesake and a huge dropout rate. Also another set of data released recently had shown that over 15 lakh children in 7-14 age bracket were illiterate, that is they could not read, write or comprehend even one language.
“The strategy to focus only on enrollment does not seem to be working too well. It is time that the focus is shifted to retention of children and on quality of learning,” said former chief secretary of MP Nirmala Buch, who is chairperson of NGO Child Rights Observatory of MP (CROMP) said.
FA Jami, education specialist of UNICEF MP said out of school children is an issue which needs urgent attention.
The state needs a “strong system” to make sure that out of children are identified properly and there is strategy which is rightly implemented to get such children to school. “Also children in school need to have child friendly environment, which respects rights of children and school are prepared with requisite teaching learning skills,” he said.
Additional chief secretary of school education department, SR Mohanty, when contacted said that he was out of station and had yet not seen the data. “I can comment only after I see data,” he said.
1,51,59,950 Total children between 6 and 14 years
19,63,599 Children who never attended school
5,13,211 Children who dropped out