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The Education We Want
21. June 2018 at 17:40
Education is a fundamental human right to acquire knowledge, skills, values and beliefs in different aspects of our life and it helps to promote individual freedom, empowerment and propagates important development benefits. Today, education remains an inaccessible right for millions of children around the world. More than 73 million children of primary education age are not in school and aproximately 760 million adults are illiterate and do not have the awareness necessary to improve both their living conditions and those of their children.
Children in poor countries face many roadblocks to acquiring an education. They are abandoned. They do not get a chance to step in a school. They are left to fend for themselves on the streets. They suffer from many forms of violence. They do not have access to even primary healthcare. They are subjected to cruel and inhumane treatments every day.

They are children – innocent, young and beautiful – who are deprived of their rights. Though noteworthy progress has been achieved, yet in developing countries there is still a long way to go in realising the rights of children. Though all the relevant rules and policies are in place, there is a lack in enforcement initiatives. To take into account a few major roadblocks there are several factors that forbid effective implementation of the laws.

Due to relatively low success in achieving concrete child development outcomes, the condition of underprivileged kids and underprivileged youth is harsh and needs urgent attention. There is a need to intensify efforts for children welfare at all levels to implement the rules and provisions of the Convention and contribute to create a world suitable for children. Some are evident – like not having a school to go to – while others are more subtle, like the teacher at the school not having had the training needed to effectively help children to learn.

The UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which, among other things, calls on every country to enact legislation that will reduce both social and financial barriers to staying in school. Today, the CRC is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history. Still, decades after committing to protect every child’s right to education, have these Governments followed through on their promise?

Observed Challenges
Many children from underprivileged backgrounds are forced to desert their education due to various problems related to health, malnutrition or in order to work and provide support for the family. Factors linked to poverty such as unemployment, illness and the illiteracy of parents, multiplies the risk.

Many emerging countries do not have appropriate financial resources necessary to create schools, provide schooling materials, nor recruit and train teachers. Funds pledged by the international community are generally not sufficient enough to allow countries to establish an education system for all children.

Equally, a lack of financial resources has an effect on the quality of imparting education. Teachers do not benefit from basic teacher training and schools, of which there are not enough, have oversized classes and are not well equipped.

This overflow leads to classes where many different educational levels are forced together which does not allow each individual child to benefit from an education adapted to their needs and abilities. As a result, the drop-out rate and education failure remain high.

Notable Issues
It is girls who have the least access to education. They make up more than 54% of the non schooled population in the world. This problem occurs most frequently in the Arab States, in central Asia and in Southern and Western Asia and is principally explained by the cultural and traditional privileged treatment given to males. Girls are destined to work in the family home, whereas boys are entitled to receive an education. In sub-Saharan Africa, over 12 million girls are at risk of never receiving an education. In Yemen, it is more than 80% of girls who will never have the opportunity to go to school. Even more alarming, certain countries such as Afghanistan or Somalia make no effort to reduce the gap between girls and boys with regard to education.

Although many developing countries may congratulate themselves on dramatically reducing inequality between girls and boys in education, a lot of effort is still needed in order to achieve a universal primary education.

Girls who become pregnant in many countries are often barred from further education. School officials resort to unethical means to identify pregnant girls, including forced pregnancy tests and often publicly shame and at times even expel them. Many countries also do not have policies for re-entry to schools after giving birth. I have accompanied a team of Human Rights Watch to various parts of my Nation to work on this issue. We met many girls who were struggling to get an education. Some had quit because of poverty and no support.

Children are born helpless and completely dependent on adults. The law, therefore, is there to protect them, to offer them opportunities and to allow them a say in decisions which concern them. There are, however, a number of failings in the system. If you feel you are not able to address change and make awareness within your National Govt. initiatives, I have analysed some of the most successful initiatives in education to come up with a list that you can start using right now in your respective nations and help on your own:-

1. Rent a van/minibus and start a mobile-school
What you need :
a. A couple of like minded and decently educated volunteers
b. a balanced curriculum of academics and engaging activities
c. A small van that can double up as a classroom when parked.
d. Identify an area which has high concentration of poor children (usually slums in your city) and take your mobile-school to that area every weekend.

Initial traction may be tough, but if you remain persistent and make the classes enjoyable, the kids are sure to turn up every time they hear your van approaching!

2. Start it right inside your home
If you work at home or return from office early enough, you could get the disadvantaged children from around your neighbourhood right inside your living room and conduct classes right there. You don't need a lot of resources, just your home and the right curriculum will be enough to give these children quality education for free. You could also get your neighbours to join-in and help out with different subjects and activities. One of the ways you can spread the word around is by talking to your own domestic helps such as maids etc and asking them to send their children to you (in case they don't go to a school).

You can also do this as a weekend activity, supplementing the learning that these children get in their local schools. Make a difference today by starting your own living room school!

3. Start a library
a.Collect old books from your neighbours, friends, family, colleagues - anyone who is keen to contribute
b.Crowdfund through Social Media post or a tweet asking for funding to acquiring books or donating books directly.
c. Visit Various Schools after Term End and put up donation Stalls for Children to donate their School Books, Notes for underprivileged children. Also invite them and their parents to volunteer.
d. Visit nearby locality where there are many underprivileged children.

Identify a place where you can put these books up and get the children to come and browse through. Any child picking up a book should enter his/her details and the book's title in that log book so that they get to manage the library on their own. Frequently check with the children on what they like and don't like about this new library. Replenish the books once every month.

4. Setup a small training unit to teach skills to children
If you are good at any specific vocational skills start a small unit in your locality where children can come and learn these skills from you. Ensure that the skill you are teaching is appropriate to the child's age. Teaching a computer-based skill can be extremely handy to these children if they are exposed to it in the long-run.

5. Organize an outdoor sport every weekend with the children
They will not only enjoy the game, they will also pick up many life-skills in the process. Education is not always delivered through academic curriculum. Sports such as football, cricket, hockey help children come out of their shells and become better team players. Identify a ground near your community (perhaps a ground of a school/college?) which you can make use of on weekends. Get the parents and teachers of these children involved too - that way you can build a great sense of camaraderie amidst the children and their guardians.

Here are few amazing Projects from India to inspire you to begin your own initiative :-
Helping educate needy Children:
Teach For India
Working in: Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru
Creating youth leaders out of college graduates and professionals, who commit to educating children in government schools, for two years. Past volunteers also help these kids get better exposure in sectors they belong to
USP: Hands-on, value-driven learning system within the government curriculum
Impact: 7 cities, 331 schools, 38,000 children, 1,100 fellows (young teachers), 1,050 alumni
Future Vision: TFI aims to be in 8 cities by 2016, with 2000 fellows impacting 60,000 students

Make a Difference
Working in: Working in: 23 cities, including Delhi, Chandigarh, Trivandrum, Kolkata, Mumbai and Nagpur
Providing kids in shelter homes the anchorage of family and education by mobilizing the youth community
USP: Harnessing the power of youth to develop aspirations in shelter-home kids, and leadership skills in both the learners and young teachers.
Impact: 23 cities, 77 shelter homes, 5,000 children, 3,000 volunteer teachers
Future Vision: To create within the community, a “safe ecosystem” for every child in need and take education beyond academics by influencing individuals (young volunteers) as well as institutions (schools) for to make education inclusive

Lend a Hand
Working in: Pali, Jalore, Sirohi, Ajmer, Bundi, Rajsamand and Bhilwara; will expand operations to Udaipur and Jhalawar in Rajasthan and Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh in 2016
Raison d’etre: Overriding gender disparity as a significant barrier to education
USP: Leverages community and government resources to ensure that girls are in school and learning well
Impact: 8,000 schools, over 4,600 villages, 1 lakh girls enrolled, 28 lakh beneficiaries
Future Vision: To improve access and quality of education in 30,000 schools, 16 educationally backward districts, 4 million children, by 2018

Educate Girls
Working in: 23 Indian states and union territories
Raison d’etre: For every child to be in school and learn well
USP: Provides cost effective and scalable solutions to achieve measurable learning outcomes for all children
Impact: Reached out to about 4.5 lakh children in rural India and 3.5 lakh in urban India, through the Read India programme in 2014-15. Partnered with state and district governments to impact the learning level of about 6.2 million children
Future Vision: Every child be able to read, write and do basic math before end of primary school

AngelXpress Foundation
Working in: Parks across Mumbai, spanning suburbs such as Bandra, Powai, Sewri, Malad, etc.
Raison d’etre: to tap potential of educated, affluent individuals with the expertise to “give back” to the community in the form of tutoring, mentoring and guiding underprivileged learners
USP: Teaching at promenades and parks and making it scalable by using simple technology (such as the SMS service) to help interested citizens in setting up new learning centres in their neighbourhood.
Impact: 8 Learning centres with 800 first generation learners, 7 In-School English Programmes (for vernacular BMC schools) helping 1,700 students, 200+ educated volunteers and free service to communities keen on helping kids
Future Vision: To advance its two-way learning process through a “Buddy System”, wherein school kids from privileged backgrounds bond and exchange ideas with their less-privileged peers

ECIS (Every Child in School), since 2014
Working in: Suneria Village, Rohtak, Haryana
Raison d’etre: Ensuring every child gets an education, irrespective of their social status
USP: Makeshift school with open-ended syllabus
Impact: 120 children
Future Vision: Integrating existing technology (tablets, laptops, education apps) into a centrally controlled system to ensure education for every child (particularly the 1000-odd child-ragpickers in Rohtak and 200 others from destitute families)

OSCAR (Organisation for Social Change, Awareness and Responsibility) Foundation, since 2006
Raison d’etre: Motivating school kids from slums to finish education by engaging them in football
Working in: Mumbai, Delhi, Goa, Ranchi
USP: Uses sports as a character-building tool for children, whose lack of grooming leads to their losing focus and dropping out of school
Impact: 3,000 students, 7 states, 30 centres (14 in Mumbai)
Future Vision: To impact 20,000 kids by 2020

Established in the year 1994, Pratham is dedicated to provide education to children belonging to the slums of Mumbai. Team Pratham comprises of civil servants, PhDs, social workers, educationists and many other educated personnel who are working for a common dream of developing the future of children of the country. With an aim to offer every child their fundamental right to education, Pratham has slowly grown into a larger organisation covering 19 states of India.

Barefoot College-India
An entire campus that runs on solar power. Yes, that’s Barefoot College that was originally started by two friends Meghraj and Sanjit ‘Bunker’ Roy and who wanted to establish college for the rural population of India and was established in 1972. Today, the organisation trains local community people into teachers, specialized professionals in other fields and has initiated many educational efforts for children. The organisation has also been ranked as the second best educational NGO in the year 2013 by The Global Journal.

‘Child rights and you’ or CRY is an NGO in India working for children and their rights. CRY has undertaken a lot of initiatives to improve the condition of underprivileged children and one of them is the ‘Chotte Kadam-Pragati ki Aur’, a literacy drive that has reached out to more than 35000 children in 10 states of India. ‘Mission Education’ is another very popular campaign from CRY to make sure that ‘education is every child’s right’ and that proper education reaches to more children in every new academic year.

How to induce interest in underprivileged children to learn ?
In order to encourage children or out of school youth to participate in your program we must establish a rapport with them, provide them their basic needs. It should be sustained and I think this will be our biggest challenge.

How will you sustain the activities? Part of our strategy is to form a task force involving different stakeholders.Project will define techniques to generate interest in poor children, who don't want to go to school, generate and manage funds, provide one or two meals, generate employment opportunities and develope children to combat the future.

If anyone has experience with such projects please share.I am currently working on developing a survey questionnaire 'Reasons for not attending public schools', to find out the exact reasons in the initial stages and as an addon we have some government policy makers in our team so that they can identify where they missed out in different zones.

Attracting children could be achieved by using audio visual aids, developing employment opportunities, one/two time meal program, troubleshooting cell and maybe on later stages providing scholarships to ensure they undergo further education.

I think all reasons will boil down to poverty, parental neglect, parents unemployment, etc. If you can address unemployment, free education for all, food in their table, and school supplies, then I think you can attract children to school. In our country our government subsidizes sustenance of schooling of the marginalised sector by giving them conditional cash. Part of the condition is that parents must ensure that their children are attending school. If children will stop then the subsidy will stop also.

Cite This Article As: Pranav Mohla. "The Education We Want." International Youth Journal, 21. June 2018.

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