Educating Children in Naxal Affected Areas in India

By Sarita Brara

New Delhi, Jan 8, 2013 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB India) One piece of  good news  on the educational front  from left wing extremist affected (LWE)  districts in the country  is that many areas  have witnessed  a declining  trend  in the dropout rates  since the inception of  Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan  as  was stated by  the Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Shri Shashi Tharoor while replying to a question  in Parliament during the just concluded winter session.

A number of steps have been taken over the years  by the center and the concerned state governments to  enroll  children  in schools in  LWE  affected areas  and  most importantly to retain them in schools and  thus arrest the high rate of drop outs that these schools have been witnessing for many years.

Central Government Initiatives and Assistance

The opening of residential schools has been quite effective in retaining children in schools .According to official figures there are 77 residential schools/ hostels in LWE districts with intake capacity of 31650 children. 889 Kasturba Gandhi Vidalaya residential schools for girls have been opened in the affected districts for class VI to VIII.

Under the provisions of a scheme of the Ministry for Tribal Affairs   100 per cent central assistance is provided for construction of all Scheduled tribe girls’ ashram schools and boys’ ashram schools in naxal-affected districts identified by Ministry of Home Affairs from time to time.

The Coordination with Ashram Shalas and other SC/ST department schools by giving free text books, the mid day meal, teacher training school maintenance grant and teacher grant for teaching aids has also helped.

Multi Lingual Education in early grades in tribal districts of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh is another step that can improve learning comprehension and retention of children in schools.

The center has also sanctioned special training for drop outs or never enrolled children. Over 33280 lakh rupees have been sanctioned for 6, 59,668 out of school children for age appropriate admission in regular schools.

Transportation/ escort facility for total of 47,909 children has been provided in 2011-12 and 2012-13 in LWE districts.

LWE districts are treated as Special Focused districts for need based planning and sanctions.

KG to PG Educational Hubs in Maharashtra

The Maharashtra government is planning an initiative towards starting “KG to PG” educational hubs for tribal students in areas affected by Naxalite violence. These residential schools are meant to impart education to students from kindergarten to postgraduate level and are aimed at letting tribal communities enter the mainstream.

Porta Cabin Schools in Chhatisgarh

In Chhattisgarh   the state government there has installed pre-fabricated structures, porta cabin schools in all the districts of Bastar region. While it takes a long time to build permanent infrastructure for schools, the Pre-fabricated structures can be moved to areas where Naxalites  have destroyed schools or where ever they are required. The porta cabin school scheme in Chhattisgarh has been implemented with the help of UNICEF and the state of Jharkhand has also approved funds for such schools.

Balbandhu Programme of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights

An innovative Balbandhu scheme initiated by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in strife torn areas two years back too has started making an impact. The scheme has been introduced in nine districts affected by civil strife in Sukhma in Chhhatisgarh, Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, Khammam in Andhra Pradesh, East Champaran, Sheohar, Jammui and Rohtas in Bihar and Kokrajhar and Chirang in Assam. Balbandhus are young  people recruited  from within the community  to oversee the children in  such areas go to school, return  to schools if they have dropped out  and trace and restore the missing children to their families . While these balbandhus  may not have the power to  enforce implementation but  they can put pressure  on the authorities by involving the community and the Panchayats  towards this end An evaluation report  on the Balbandhu programme  says that these young recruits have   given  a distinct  confidence to the children in these areas specially the school going ones.

Among many other suggestion, recommendations, that the  Balbandhu programme should be extended  for at least two years  in the same block and  a new block should be opened up in the neighboring district  where the existing resource person  and balbandhu can  give basic operational training.

The self help groups and Balbandhu committee should monitor Midday meal scheme and send regular reports.

Students should be encouraged to form self help groups where the students good in studies could help weak children.

According to Dr. Shantha Sinha, the NCPCR Chairperson, the Right to Education Act has shown positive results and there  has been an  increase in enrollment but a lot more remains to be done in strife torn areas.She said that the things there are moving at slow pace  and there is need to replicate the experiences of places that have shown good results.

The President, Shri Pranab Mukherjee has said that Education is the best antidote for violence, intolerance and inequality. After laying the foundation stone of two separate hostels for tribal students in the districts of Chhattisgarh recently, he said faith in humanity must be restored in the minds of youths so that the country can find its rightful place in the world.

(PIB Feature)

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this article are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of PIB or of WBRi.