Back to School
Nagpur, Maharashtra: Waiting for her father had become a routine for Achal now; she had now lost interest in playing or in any other activity. Her parents had left her with her uncle and family saying that they would be back in a week’s time. Days and weeks passed by and it had been three months now that she is waiting to go back home. Achal used to narrate poems, stories and lesson that she had learned in school to her cousins in the initial days of her stay, but as days passed, she stopped narrating and singing songs.
Achal’s family lived in Chikmara village, Chandrapur district, Nagpur. Her parents were farmers toiling from dawn to dusk; they left Achal at her uncle place due to some work but they were not able to take out time to bring her back and thought to themselves that she is safe at her uncle’s place. Though Achal’s uncle and family took good care of her, she wasn’t going to school anymore. The stories and poems that she had learned were fading away and she grew weary as she waited for her parents.
DBSS Nagpur had been working in the Chikmara village on the issues of livelihood, land rights and entitlements for more than a decade. The interventions of CNI SBSS through DBSS had expanded to the issues of education, water & sanitation and health. DBSS Nagpur had been creating awareness on the importance of education and provisions of Right to Education Act with the community members. Issue Based Units (IBU) were formed in the communities to lead the activities and programs on education. The Right to Education Act (RTE) enacted by the Parliament of India, declares free and compulsory education for children between 6 – 14 years of age. The Act under Article 21a makes education a fundamental right of every child and specifies minimum norms in elementary schools. In spite of the provisions, India faces its greatest education challenges viz. low attendance & high rate of dropouts, it is noted that enrolled children are not completing elementary education with higher rates of dropout among girls. According to a study by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, children dropping out or not attending school are likely to be engaged in semi-skilled and unskilled employment and high dropout rate increases per unit cost of school education, and reduces human resource development drastically.
DBSS Nagpur, during their follow ups and interaction with the government school in Chikamara village learned that Achal had not been attending school for a long term. Since DBSS Nagpur shared a cordial relationship with the government school, the DBSS staff took the details from the school principal and conducted a home visit to check on Achal and her family. After few attempts, the staff and IBU members were finally able to meet Achal’s father who shared that she is living with their uncle and family. Ignorant of the importance of education and impact of its absence, her father was initially unable to understand the issue. DBSS staff talked to them about how withholding Achal from going to school can negatively impact her future and how education can open doors for a better future. The parents took heed and decided to bring Achal back home.
Achal was sitting outside her uncle’s house when she saw her father coming from a distance along with a DBSS staff; she jumped off her feet and ran towards her father crying with happiness. The father realized his mistake when he saw her crying, and brought her back home. She joined school the very next day; there was no limit to Achal’s happiness on meeting her friends and teachers. The school staff appreciated the parents for bringing her back to school and the headmaster was so happy that she was given new uniforms and books to start her school right away.
CNI SBSS along with DBSS(s) aims to reduce dropout rates and improve the quality of education by ensuring efficient implementation of Right to Education Act in the government schools in the project areas. The interventions are focused on creating awareness on the significance of education and entitlements under Right to Education Act among the community members and Issue Based Units. CNI SBSS has adopted an innovative approach of engaging with the children in the communities. Bal Sabhas (Children’s Committees) are formed, where the children come together at a regular interval and engage themselves in learning and sharing activities.