Lucknow Although the Uttar Pradesh basic education department has been talking about higher school enrolments, what takes away from their claims is the huge dropout rate witnessed in the state, especially at the elementary level. Now, a primary school has decided to combat this issue in its own unique way. The school’s ‘Bal Sansad’ is doubling up as the ‘Santa squad’ this festive season, conducting a door-to-door drive to get back dropouts and classmates who have been irregular.Students of the primary school in village Lakhesar of Jaunpur district have used this Christmas to make guardians of their former classmates and other irregular students understand the importance of education. In this direction, they have also created a small informative pamphlet that urges parents to send their children to school.Headmaster Ramesh Chandra Yadav said that one of the reasons why the dropout rate at the school was high was its location. “The school is situated in a remote part and the terrain is tough. As a result, attendance and retention figures have been suffering.” However, members of the ‘Santa squad’ are now out to change this.Harshit of Class 5, president of the Bal Sansad, Saumya of Class 5, vice president, Vanshi of Class 4, health and hygiene minister, Anshika of Class 4, education minister, Chandni of Class 5, cultural minister and Sohani of Class 4, environment minister, have taken up the responsibility to get students back to school. “On Christmas Day and since then, we have been going out in the afternoon, with our teachers Shivam Singh and Mukesh Dubey, to convince villagers to send their children to school,” said Harshit and Saumya. Chandni and Sohani added that it had been a learning experience for them as well -- convincing elders and classmates on how important it was to attend classes daily.“In the process, the squad succeeded in bringing back 12 students -- 10 who had been irregular and two dropouts,” informed Shivam Singh, teacher. Appreciating the idea of forming a ‘Santa squad’, village head Nisha Tiwari has promised to help the school improve its infrastructure, including construction of better toilets and getting a projector to facilitate lectures. “With her help, the school will soon have new and better facilities,” said a teacher. The headmaster said that the goal of the ‘Santa squad’ was to build confidence among students and guardians, strengthen teacher-student relationship, create a positive atmosphere for promoting education, and improve student retention and attendance. According to available data, the Net Enrolment Rate (NER) in UP at the elementary level is 79.86% -- 9 percentage points lower than the all India average of 88.94%. The state has an annual dropout rate of 8.58% at the primary level -- the 6th highest in the country and more than double the all India average of 4.13%. Also, the state’s primary to upper-primary transition rate of 79.1% is the 4th lowest in the country -- 11.04 percentage points below the national average of 90.14%.