Ensuring that every child attends school is the fundamental duty of a government and elementary education for all children should be the basis of economic growth, said United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Friday.
Addressing a conference on 'Empowerment of Scheduled Castes, Schedules Tribes and Minorities through Elementary Education', Gandhi expressed concern over the increasing number of school dropouts in the economically backward areas.
"It is really a paradox that in our country, which produces eminent scientists, we have the largest number of illiterates also," Gandhi said.
Pointing out that the UPA government had allocated around Rs 350 billion for the education under the programmes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Gandhi said the government still could not do much to restrict the school dropouts.
"The dropout rate is still high. Only eight of the 100 children joining school complete their high school education," she said adding that absence of amenities like classrooms, sanitation facilities and even teachers was the reason behind it.
"Ensuring each child is attending school is the fundamental duty of a government," Gandhi said.
The Congress president also stressed that the linguistic minorities should get elementary education in their mother tongue.
The two-day conference was also addressed by Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh, Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and Lok Sabha deputy speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal.
While Paswan called for reservation in jobs for backward classes in the private sector and equal opportunities for all the children in school education, Shekhawat said the schemes for elementary education for the poor would only show results if poverty is eradicated.
"Educational schemes will start showing results only if poverty is eradicated and the population growth is controlled effectively," Shekhawat said.
The conference was organised by All India Forum of Legislators (Scheduled Castes, Tribes and others), of which Atwal is the chairman, and human resource development ministry.