UTTAR PRADESH might have received an award from President APJ Abdul Kalam for becoming the fastest moving State in the field of primary education. But if the findings of a survey conducted by an NGO Pratham are to be believed, the ground realities in the primary education sector in Lucknow are removed from the facts presented by the State Basic Education Department.
According to the NGO, around 26 per cent children between 6 and 14 years of age are out of schools in Lucknow. One of the primary reasons for these is the lack of space and infrastructure in government primary schools. A primary school near Badshah Nagar Railway station, which is situated within a one-kilometre radius of the State Education Directorate in Nishatganj, is an example of this. This two-room school runs on rented premises on railway land. Small rooms, which lack ventilation, accommodate 245 children, who attend their classes without electricity and fans.
As many as 217 children of the locality do not go to school. The Railways has asked the school to shift. If that happens, the current students may not move from one locality to another. In that event, it is quite possible that they may join the list of dropouts.
As many as 144 students, from classes I to V, are packed into a single-room Talkatora school which has one teacher.
Over 900 children between the age of 6 and 14 years do not to school in this locality.
In Sadatganj, 624 children are out of school and in Alamnagar their number is 675.
Pratham conducted the door-to-door survey in May-June in 291 localities of Lucknow. The aim was to ensure that out-of-school children could be admitted to school in July. During the survey, 37,677 children were contacted. Of them, 35,608 were between 6 and 14 years of age. In all, 9,954 children did not go to school. Four thousand children were enrolled in various schools of Lucknow on the initiative of the NGO in July.
Smitin from Pratham , who has played a key role in compilation of the survey findings, says the municipal corporation runs a number of primary schools in the city. But 25 of 110 municipal wards don’t have primary schools. Mostly children from low-income group families go to government-run schools.
Vital statistics: Govt officials disagree
GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS disagreed with statistics revealed in the Pratham survey. They said ensuring that that each child had access to schools in urban areas was a challenge. Non-cooperation of stakeholders and non-availability of land were the major problems in ensuring successful operation of schools in cities, they said.
But the NGO suggested short-term and long-term solutions to the problems.
According to Smitin, in rural areas, only primary schools are responsible for imparting education to children. But in urban areas, there are private schools as well. So, separate policies and programmes should be formulated for urban and rural areas.
He says in urban areas, children of only low-income group families go to government primary schools. “We are depriving those children of education who are not able to go to school due to lack of space, distance, or are engaged in labour etc.” Schools can be run in double shifts to solve the problem of lack of space. That way, more children can be accommodated in schools.
Accordingly, timings of teachers can be rescheduled.
If schools are incapable of accommodating all children in mainstream education due to lack of resources, alternative extension schools can be operated. These schools should be associated with government schools so that children get free books, uniforms and midday meals.
Smitin said Pratham is ready to offer its own resources to the State Government in terms of teachers and managing alternative schools till the government is able to improve infrastructure of its own. The idea has been discussed with senior officials of the department many times, but no positive step has been taken to remedy the situation.