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मंदार शिंदे
Mandar Shinde

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The work has begun now...

'Every Child Counts' was launched as a citizens' campaign to ensure every child's right to get education. Most important part of the campaign was school admissions! During last few months, citizen volunteers and social groups, NGO's have been busy finding out 6-year-old children who need to be in schools. Almost all outskirt areas of Pune have been surveyed - Kondhwa, Dhayari, Hadapsar, Balewadi, Baner, Dhanori, etc. More than 2,600 such children were identified. The enrollment drive needed a sound plan like:

1. Locating nearest PMC or ZP schools for children found through surveys;
2. Checking current capacity of these schools with respect to additional enrollments through this campaign;
3. Discussing the situation and immediate possible solutions, with school heads and teachers;
4. Taking the children and their parents to schools on the day of admissions.

The capacity assessment of schools gave big shortfalls at many schools. Discussions with the school heads and teachers went well; however no proactive measures for shortfalls were promised.

PMC schools opened on 15th June. Some transport facility is being arranged by ECC on the first day; however no further plans for everyday transport yet. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Shikshan Mandal of Pune have offered some solutions like - (i) free PMPML bus passes for school-going children; or (ii) schools to arrange local transport through auto-rickshaw or vans, and get reimbursement from PMC. None of the solutions have been finalised yet.

Children are found very very excited about going to school. (A major reason for excitement could be the school bus that they are seeing on day-one...) There is still some resistance or ignorance from some of the parents; however, overall sentiment looks positive. People want their children to be educated; but are holding back - some due to lack of knowledge about schools and admission procedure, others due to fear of fees and academic expenses. A lot of parent awareness is required!

Some parents are visiting the schools along with ECC volunteers. This is a very positive sign, according to the school teachers. This can be considered as a personal success of ECC volunteers. They have worked hard to convince the parents, not only for sending their children but also for being present for the admissions. As of now, the parents are saying that they would look after their children's regular attendance in schools. However, this needs a strong follow-up.

Children across Pune city are being taken to nearest PMC schools. This process will continue until all the children are enrolled in schools. Looks too ambitious? Yes, it is! The survey also looked 'too ambitious' when we planned in November 2011. Apart from school admissions of these children, a 'hidden' agenda of this campaign was to involve citizens in the RTE implementation. To some extent, this campaign has been successful in doing that. Citizens from all over Pune have come foreward to contribute in surveying, teaching, enrolling, and talking-writing-discussing about the Right To Education Act! The school admissions will continue for some time, then facilities at government schools will be checked, then quality of education will be monitored. All this will be done through citizens' force!

Thank you volunteers for your hard work! Sorry, but there's no time for rest. The work has begun now. Hope you all are and will be with us... Because, every child counts!


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