(Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is Government of India's flagship programme for achievement of Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE) in a time bound manner, as mandated by 86th amendment to the Constitution of India making free and compulsory Education to the Children of 6-14 years age group, a Fundamental Right)
"Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan" : roughly translatable as an "Education for Everyone" project. Shiksha in Hindi means education/educating. In my language , Marathi, Shiksha means "punishment" .
Sometimes I wonder which is true.
And so we go to the further chapters in the life of S. my household help....
She came yesterday, after a bout of fever that had her flat out for two days. Given that, she certainly looked cheerful and was smiling. Turns out that her older grandson had just started school !
She has two grandsons, and big dreams. The elder fellow is 4+. His parents, and S have been trying to get admission into a good school for him. There are several schools nearby, but with specific admission criteria. He doesn't fit into the Kendriya-Vidyalaya(Central Schools) criteria, another school only admits registered dependents of employees of a certain Institute. There are some private schools. One where people from all strata of society go, and another two that cater to those considered "upper class" .
S has been trying for his school admission since last year. She got the form late. So this year, the family pooled all their resources, gave up lots of other dreams, and took turns keeping their place in the admission queue , so they could pay a "donation" of Rs 15,000, and get admission for the child. They are now in for a monthly fee of 550 Rs, plus assorted uniforms, rain wear, books, stationery, etc.
School is in the mornings. And this little fellow SK, goes for tuitions (in junior kg) everyday from 5 pm to 7 pm ! That costs an additional Rs 200 p. m.
The only saving grace is that there are no transport costs, as the school is like within 10 minutes of walking distance, and his mother or the uncles walk him to school and back. When his little brother grows up, he gets to go to the same school with a sibling discount in the fee.
SK is a smart kid. Amazingly talkative, and observant. A year ago , he helped out as an actor, when someone was making a project assignment video on tobacco and chewing, and acted as the son of a father who frequented the paan shop for Gutka(=chewing tobacco), and took the son along every time. The idea was to show how the son picks up the bad habit, because he imitates his father, and thinks whatever he does is wonderful. SK acted as the little kid, and the project students rewarded him with a new fancy school bag, a ball and chocolates, which delighted him no end.
He now attends school. When all the junior KG kids cried in a crescendo the first day of school after the parents left, this fellow looked puzzled. Went home and told his grandma , " No one hit anyone, but they still started crying ! ..." ; he carries a tiffin box to school with chapati and sabji, and so far, has not yet demanded Maggi noodles, which seems to be the favourite of those who come in vehicles.
He comes back home and reports to his Mom and Grandmother on whatever he does at school that day. And then most of his time is spent in playing with his little brother and others, outside his 1.5 room small house, in an area across a wide gutter that runs down the slope. The little fellow listens to things and is a great observer.
Some learn to listen. He listens to learn.
S never tires of describing the grandsons escapades and remarks to me. SK and his little brother recently accompanied an aunt to visit another relative who lived down the road. That place had some interesting shops with toys, clothes, pencil-boxes, and assorted school type things. They were both describing things to folks back home, and the youngest one piped up saying how much fun it would have been , had they lived nearby there; everyday, a new pencil !
SK , gives a look, shakes his 4 year-old head, taps his younger brother, and says, " You cant stay there just like that. For that you need money, you know. "
And the entire family, is amazed and stunned at this 4 year old kid, who has understood needs and priorities so well, and thinks it is important to explain this to a younger sibling, who thinks coins are things you roll on the floor and play with, which you end up giving someone else.
And then I read this.
A Western country gives us funds meant solely for primary education, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, so that kids like SK and his parents do not have to pay an arm and a leg for him to go to primary school, and so that he gets the best facilities available in his school. The same country announces that it is now launching an investigation into reported widespread misuse of these funds, where officials have used them to feather their own nests, with material things. Much of the funds never reached who they were meant for.
And the ministry of HRD, that cannot decide simple things like grading systems in schools for months together , gives a statement the next day saying nothing has been misused. If the misuser and investigator agency even partially overlap, you get instant announcements.
Anybody believe that ?
There is no smoke without fire.
And so, S.'s family slogs and figures out how to educate the two youngest with their limited resources, possibly one kid on the way, and those in power go ballistic calculating the number of digits in the percent inflation, industrial growth rate, whether fashion designers are artists in the eyes of income-tax, IPL, whether convocation robes are a carryover from the British, whether or not Warren Andersen is a crook, and how the Ambani brothers are now talking.
I guess, Sarva Shisksha Abhiyan means never having to say sorry to kids like SK.