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A helping hand for rural education

Schools and anganwadis (nurseries) in remote rural areas have been reported as having many unmet needs. While the government has several ambitious plans to improve the situation, the harsh reality is that budgetary allocations have been insufficient to meet even essential requirements, let alone make improvements. In such a situation, voluntary organisations can play an important role. One such organisation, Srijan, has already initiated efforts to this end in Jhansi District, utilising financial resources provided by the HDFC Bank.

In Haati Village (Bangra Block), an anganwadi with a leaking, uneven roof and dull surroundings, was finding it difficult to attract pre-school children. After consultations with local community and staff members, a list of priorities was drawn up. Repairs to the roof, tiling of the floors and painting of the exterior and interior walls with a mix of cheerful and educational messages were undertaken. And the result? As the anganwadi worker and her helper said happily, now many children are eager to come here regularly.

Similarly, in a school in Bansar Village, paintings in various classrooms as well as outer walls have contributed much to giving the school a more cheerful and child-friendly appearance. In Bisna Village, the school had a more urgent need. The water was too salty for the students to use. It was also a health risk to prepare the daily mid-day mealusing this water. Now an RO (reverse osmosis) plant has been installed there with the help of Srijan, bringing much relief to students and teachers.

The organisation is planning more interventions on the basis of consultations with teachers, students and communities. It is planning to provide some help for digital education and to facilitate use of videos in classrooms, as also for the setting up of school libraries and science labs at middle-level schools. Improvement of sanitation facilities is likely to be another priority. Improving sports facilities and playgrounds will also get some attention. New priorities may emerge as the work progresses.

These may appear to be fairly basic amenities, but the very fact that these are still not available in so many rural schools is indication that such support, in addition to improved government budgets, is needed. Education budgeting in India has remained far short of the norm of about 6 per cent of GDP, despite frequent highlighting of needs. While one waits for more generous government support, help from voluntary bodies is making a welcome difference, at least in some areas.

(Bharat Dogra from Jhansi District)

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