Fabricating hope from ingredients like poor education & poor ideas

I see a child at the traffic light. He is about two years old, in tattered clothes and howling away. He looks like he has been abandoned, perhaps temporarily. What’s new about that, you might ask? It’s a regular sight in any Indian city. Life is harsh for many out there! *shrug*

One the same day, our Finance Minister was presenting the nation’s annual budget and there was much talk in the air about the revival of investment, the promise of growth and development, the changing fortunes of India.

I was having a hard time reconciling the two strains of thought. I gulped and what I had the taste of bile in my mouth.

Of all the dismal facts about India, it is the ones about children that are the hardest to come to terms with. The trafficking, the child labour, the sexual exploitation. Today’s Hindustan Times carries a full-page editorial about the number of children out of school in our part of the world and this is disturbing too.

Two aspects of the editorial struck me. First, that it wasn’t just poverty that keeps children out of school. India has unleashed a slew of legislation to reinforce primary education- the Right to Education (RTE) Act, the National Programme of Nutritional Support and others. Yet children stayed out of school. Experts attribute this to the poor quality of education that is unable to keep the kids interested. In my research with migrants in north India, I find access to private sector education for their children drives poor households away from villages to small towns, but they are hopelessly disappointed in the quality of these private schools, that offer English-medium all right (as compared to govt schools that teach in Hindi) but no knowledge whatsoever. Also, experts point to the availability of funds but the utter poverty of good ideas that means new investments in the sector are hardly ever realised, especially at the primary and lower secondary levels.

The other idea that struck me was the familiar argument that couches the entire issue of children’s education in the garb of productivity and loos of potential on a national level. To me, more tragic is the experience of the child herself, the family to which she belongs or worse to which she does not if she is an orphan or being trafficked.

We aren’t able to create enough jobs for the ones we do manage to educate, so perhaps instead of worrying about creating a higher volume of educated workforce, we should focus on improving the quality of the education and the experience that children have in school. And higher education? The majority of youth in rural and small town India do not actually attend college, but get their degrees through correspondence and part-time engagements or by simply appearing for exams without ever being taught.

I find it hard to be hopeful about a generation that is barely getting a real education. And yet when you speak to young people, it’s hard to feel so low. They are charged with energy and ambition and I can only hope that we can find a way to not let them down!

About ramblinginthecity

I am an architect and urban planner, a writer and an aspiring artist. I love expressing myself and feel strongly that cities should have spaces for everyone--rich, poor, young, old, healthy and sick, happy or depressed--we all need to work towards making our cities liveable and lovable communities.

Posted on July 13, 2014, in Politics & Citizenship and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Speak about two laws and selective justice when it comes to a free good called education. Which is the biggest tragedy than ignoring our vast human potential and depriving of healthy education? Personally, I feel so sad how resources are being wasted and hope Madam at least steer the changes to make our youth not only employable but give an all round education. Inclusive approach is key to steer Economic Growth and uplift the country:)

  2. Well said.. Agree to your points.

    There was an issue in Kerala recently.. More than 200 kids from Jharkhand and Bihar was rescued from Kerala. They came here as part of human trafficking. These traffickers offered ransom money to the parents and made to believe that these kids will be given better education and jobs. But the situation was horrible and they were employed in most parts of Kerala.

    This is not a single incident. One critical factor that leads to trafficking is lack of proper education and facilities. The authorities are least bothered and they also earn from these. The education system in India is declining year by year and as you said the majority of youth in rural and small town India do not actually attend college, but get their degrees through correspondence and part-time engagements or by simply appearing for exams without ever being taught.

    There should be more stricter laws regarding education and more focused approach. We need to find out ways to create more jobs.
    http://dreamweaverdiaries.in/2014/07/11/budget-2014-for-startups-and-entrepreneurs/ This is a good start in the right direction. I hope it gets implemented well and create more opportunities. We are not scarce in ideas but implementing those needs encouragement as well as a well guided ecosystem as well.

    • Totally! And because we are a huge disorganised nation, we often miss the positive stories as well. I think there is merit in the govt identifying meritable pilots and supporting scale up of those ideas specifically, in every sector.

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