While no doubt the Central Government along with the State Governments is doing a lot to improve the quality of education in rural areas of India under the Sarv Shikshya Abhiyan programme, a lot more needs to be done to address the problems at the grass root level.
A major issue is the alarming drop out rate among the female students in the schools in the rural areas of Delhi, U.P. Punjab and Haryana. There are various factors responsible for this. Among these is that girls have to travel long distances in order to reach their schools. Thus we can blame poor transport facilities or poor connectivity as one of the reasons why girls drop out of school very early. Since parents are often worried about the safety of girls who have to travel long distance, they make them drop out of school! An important way of tackling this problem is to open more schools in the neighbourhood, or to provide the girl students better and safe transport facility. It is a common sight to see overloaded vans and autos moving at great speed in the rural areas with students on board!
One important issue faced by many rural schools is the shortage of clean drinking water. Often, the schools have to make do with their own submersible pumps, and so it is difficult to monitor the quality of water. In terms of hygiene, a lot more needs to be done about providing students with good toilets. The number of toilets in many rural schools falls much below the ratio fixed for the number of toilets per students.Some schools don’t even have boundary walls, this makes them unsafe, especially those close to main roads and public highways.
As far as the Mid-Day Meal is concerned, this is in itself a positive step on the part of the Government, but then it requires monitoring at the school level to ensure that the quality of the food supplied is good. The Governments are paying a lot of money for the improvement of the quality of education in rural areas, but as far as utilisation of is concerned, a lot more needs to be done! One major reason for poor utilisation of funds could be the abrupt transfer of Principals while they are in the middle of a project. The new Principal or Head Master wouldn’t know about the project or the funds that have been used so far. Thus, it is clear, proper utilisation of funds for various important projects should take place, and there should be transparency in the whole process.
There is a greater need to make school buildings and their surroundings look more attractive and inviting to the students. I remember when I was in Delhi, there was the concept of BALA or Building As a Learning Aid. In a leading public school in sector 15, Gurgaon, a portion of the ground has been developed into a Science Theme Park, where there are telescopes, levers, pulleys, perpetual-motion gadgets…etc. Making the schools attractive to students is a must today! A pleasant surrounding, greenery, science theme parks, and enough ground for sports will surely make schools in rural parts of North India more attractive!