The focus in this part is on actually children attending primary school.
Today, one of my friends suggested creating a forum, where we spend some money every month to help in educating some needy children. He was ready to take responsibility of finding needy children and ensuring that money is spent on education only. Of course, I agreed its a good idea and we can pursue it. It will take sometime before we actually will be able to start it. On another note, with the disease I have that of thinking too much my mind went off in direction of is this the right problem we are solving? Is the biggest problem we have for education in India is that of inability to pay for education? And sadly the answer was an emphatic "No". We need to get bottom of this as primary education for all is one of the most influencing factors for development and betterment of any country. (Sorry being lazy and not having access to all my books currently, I am not giving any references here, But I am sure there is strong argument on this in the book "The Great Indian Middleclass" by Pavan Varma)
We have enormous education infrastructure (I agrees it is still inadequate and significant percentage of villages in India are still without any schools, but again I am not sure my friends will be going to such remote villages to help children), we have government funded schools, we have schools by municipalities in every city, we have schools by zilla parishad in districts. All these schools have very nominal fees (in many cases even below poverty line people also can afford it), education for girls is free in these schools; then surely tuition fees are not the problem. Also the problem of primary education has two dimensions, one is that of enrolling itself and the other is that of not completing it. The statistics show that percentage children especially in rural areas enrolling but not completing their primary education is staggering (Once again pardon me for researching actual numbers and including them here). There are many reasons, lets try to see them one by one,
1. Poverty: Don't blame me for making stupid arguments, I know making statement that paying tuition fees is not the problem but poverty is the problem sounds stupid, but that's the fact. The fact that many families in villages and very poor families in cities and towns look at the children as much needed helping hand for bread earning prevents then from sending their children to school. Though this situation of is changing rapidly with poor parents understanding importance of education, it is still not enough and in some cases poverty really do make then helpless.
2. Fictitious non-existent schools: This is especially the problem in rural areas. With highly corrupt government system, there are many schools only on the paper. According to government records many areas have schools and students studying in them, but in reality both the schools and students are non-existent.
3. Corruption: Corruption is highly rampant most of the education institutes in India. It starts from taking donations for admissions (some companies in Mumbai, offer special loans or allowances to their employees for paying these donations), to forcing children to buy books, uniforms, from the school itself, exorbitant travel expenses. What right does a school have to force children to buy books and uniforms from school itself? Its outright illegal. But, parents can't do anything after all future of their children is in hands of teachers of very same school. Unless every parent revolts against it, their children are going to get targeted and typically rich parents consider it waste of time to get into these issues. Sorry, I am going away from the problem in focus. But, corruption also exists in different forms even in the funded Government, Municipality, and ZP schools. The schools keep finding some or the other way of taking money. I wouldn't be surprised if it is one of the major reasons for poor children dropping out of schools in urban areas.
3. Lack of teachers: yes, it is hard to believe it that in a country like India which has millions of graduates passing every year and high rate of unemployment, there are not enough teachers for primary education. The roots here are more due to social perception in India. In today's India, teacher is one who hasn't got any other job. It is considered as last option by most of the young generation. Coupled with the fact that hardly anyone from urban areas wants to got rural areas the situation becomes disastrous for rural areas, especially the remote villages. Lack of teachers leads to lack of any motivation and environment for children as well as feasibility of having schools.
4. Lack of motivation and environment for education: Due to bad quality of schools, teachers absence, demand of money and sadly many times total neglect by teachers towards their students leads to many children not wanting to continue their education or their minds getting diverted to everything else but education. Neglect from school and teacher's side can be horrible. I remember, once on request of one house helper my mother started teaching a poor boy and to her horror she found that this boy who is supposed to have passed 8th standard from a Municipality school, could not do even simple addition and subtraction and could hardly spell his name. Also if parents are not enthusiastic about their child's education and/or they illiterate, that also sometime becomes barrier for children's primary education. This robs them of proper environment to appreciate their efforts and guidance if school is not providing it. Of course, there are plenty of examples of children to very poor and illiterate parents doing wonderful in studies and go on to become successful in life. But, these are exceptions, average children cannot overcome circumstances to that extent.
I am sure there is more to this problem than I have been able to put so far. We need to present poor children India with opportunity to have at least proper primary education (Yes, Proper is very important word here, there is no use having children passed 4th standard on paper, but can't even write their name). Some of us need to go into areas where such needy children are there and teach them informally for free. If schools are not doing it and politicians are more interested in feeling their pockets, we so called sophisticated nice people must do it. Is any one within us ready? Sadly, we all have money to spare, time to blog (like I am doing), we have time to go movies, pubs, etc. but we don't have time and patience to teach these children. Well, leave about teaching ourselves, it is really time consuming, can we at least find some honest and sincere people who are willing to do it, can we support these people? We need to do something and do it fast. Can we all sensible :) people come together and build a corruption free system independent of Government to make opportunity of primary education available to millions of poor children across India? Can we come together and at least change the perception about being a teacher so that future generation won't consider becoming a teacher as last option?