The Sarva Shikhsha Abhiyaan (SSA) has marked varied trends in different states. We put our focus on Maharashtra and find out the diverse range of initiatives that have been implemented and are in the pipeline from Shri Nanda Kumar (IAS), the State Project Director of Maharashtra
by Sheena Joseph
The Right to Education Act has brought about great changes in the education sector, and its implications have been felt by all States. Several related activities have being undertaken with full force in order to ensure universalisation of elementary education. The Maharashtra government has been making efforts for increasing the number of teachers in each school, since currently the number of students per teacher is quite high. “We are aiming for 25,000-30,000 extra teachers in schools”, says, Nanda Kumar, State Project Director of Maharashtra. Privately aided schools where the number of students is large, efforts are being made to improve the student -teacher ratio.
Under the additional plans which the Centre has asked the Maharashtra government to submit, a proposal has been accepted where recruitment of 12000 new primary school teachers and 11000 head teachers have been sanctioned. The process of recruitment of these teachers is currently under way. “These efforts are being made at the ground level to ensure that there is adequate availability of school teachers in all schools.” adds Kumar.
Geographical Mapping for Universal Access to Education
Under SSA, in Maharashtra, throughout the last 8 years about 60000 additional classrooms have been constructed. Also, 8000 additional new primary schools and several more upper primary schools have been set up. Massive efforts are being made to guarantee infrastructure facilities for children and to retain children in schools. “After the advent of RTE Act, we have started the school mapping exercise all over the state. The aim is to geographically map all areas and to locate habitations where there are no schools, and take steps to ensure that each habitation has at least one school in one kilometer radius. We are using the Geographical Information System (GIS) for this. The mapping system helps us keep a track of these geographical requirements.”
Secondly, in order to monitor children's attendance in schools, computer programmes have been developed as a part of the child tracking process. The initiative had been piloted in some districts of Maharashtra and is now being applied in every district.
Household surveys have been initiated by in order to keep track of children. “We have 22 Municipal Corporations in the state. We are carrying out this survey in all Municipal Corporation and wards. The objective of this initiative is to identify children who are not attending schools regularly and take corrective steps to bring them back to mainstream education.”
“To monitor the children under child tracking system and special training education, we have identified 40 NGO's in Vidarbha region. Their task is to identify children who have not attended school for several years and provide informal education. “
Nanda Kumar (IAS)
State Project Director, Maharashtra
“We have formed the School Management Committees all over the state and massive training efforts for training of trainers and teachers have already begun. We can proudly say that we have very effective training modules which are truly revolutionary. In this we have actually set the trend and other states can also emulate and replicate our modules. The training modules are excellent and the process involved in the creation of these has been intricate and elaborate. The recent Joint Review Mission has been very pleased with this,”says Kumar.
The training modules are excellent and the process involved in the creation of these has been intricate and elaborate. The recent Joint Review Mission has been very pleased with IT
The Trend Setter in Special Needs Education
Maharashtra has been among the best performing states as far as education for children with special needs are concerned. Kumar highlights that under this initiative, about 4,10,000children have been identified, out of which 55000 children have already been covered under the special needs treatment and education in the previous year. The remaining number will be accommodated in this year. A sizeable number of mobile resource teachers have been identified and trained and several therapeutic centres have been set up to cater to their requirements. The achievement of the State in this regard can easily be set as an example for other states to follow suit.
In aspects related to education for girl children, it needs to be pointed out that Maharashtra's sex ratio is lower than the national average. While the national average is 933 girls per 1000 males, Maharashtra's average is 922 girls per 1000males. “In order to address these issues, we have been able to prepare separate team of 200 people who have been trained in different aspects of gender issues and these are highlighted to the public. Several NGOs have been roped in for this and continuous training is being imparted to them. State trainers have been sensitising parents and teacher and have helped tackle the issues without creating any rift in the society. Programmes for minority education are also among the priority areas in Maharashtra.”
Partnering with Civil Societies
The State has roped in several civil society organisations to implement RTE and SSA and serve the needs of the under privileged. Jeevansaaya, the NGO spearheaded by social activist Medha Patkar, was operational for many years, and several residential schools for poor children have been set up. Other NGOs have been running residential schools for children of migrant parents and construction workers. “To monitor the children under child tracking system and special training education, we have identified 40 NGO's in Vidarbha region. Their task is to identify children who have not attended school for several years and provide informal education and special training in order to enable them to enroll in age appropriate classes and thereby come back to mainstream education. Similar initiatives have been taken in the Marathwada region.
A comprehensive quality improvement programme has been started “which we call the 'People of Mahrashtra' initiative”, says Kumar. In this, teachers, parents, civil society representatives and like-minded people have joined in order to ensure the education that is provided to children maintains a certain degree of quality. “All academic inputs that have been received under this initiative have been incorporated in the RTE Act. We intend to set up a Steering Committee for Academic Authority, which will be a permanent body, so that people of Maharashtra will be involved in initiatives for monitoring quality on a continuous basis,” concludes Kumar.