Television star Saleem was bigger attraction for children than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s message at the National Education Day on Friday, where the government launched its one-year Right To Education awareness campaign.
Saleem testifies the educational deprivation of Muslim dominated Mewat as his family could barely earn meals twice a day till he won Zee Television reality television show Little Champs this year.
He like many in the Meo community in Mewat region – spread in Haryana and Rajasthan -- had dropped out of school to be an earning hand for the family. Mewat has a literacy rate of 56 % as compared to national average of 74 %.
Saleem’s television fete earned him an invitation for the function and children of local Mewat Model School expected him to perform. He was called to perform as VIPs were late. Before he could start, HRD minister Kapil Sibal and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar arrived and his performance did not take place.
“I touched his hand,” said an exited Ashraful, a four-class student after the function to launch the programme aimed at ensuring that over 13 lakh schools are compliant with Right To Education law by 2013.
A difficult task, as still 14 states have to notify rules to implement the watershed law. “We will not give money, if the rules are not notified,” HRD minister Kapil Sibal said, adding that the Central government can only provide “vision” and the job of implementing it was of the state governments.
“I will be touring different parts of India with chief ministers to create RTE awareness,” he said, after ringing the school bell to launch Shikska Ka Haq Abhiyan.
Earlier, minister of state for HRD D Purandeshwari read the PM’s message for the only ones on floor – the local children --- where he recalled contribution of education in building his life and termed it as a “magic wand”. The message was supposed to be read out in nearly 13 lakh schools across India simultaneously.
Mewat was chosen for the launch as 5,500 of the 7,000 out of school children were enrolled in schools in 37 villages under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan. Around 95 % children in India are enrolled in schools but drop-out rate and absenteeism is still very high. Sibal added that teacher vacancies and their quality was another issue of concern.
Along with Saleem, a song on why educating girl was important in local language and a play in Haryanvi detailing the rights RTE provides to children also scored with local children.