Thursday, June 17, 2010

SK goes to school .....

(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.


  1. India is full of amazing people. The child SK is amazing and so is the person/group misusing the fund. Only they seem to be at the extreme ends of wisdom and maturity. We can hope that there will be more SKs and when they grow they will continue to be wise and mature..

  2. Thats a gud one - No one hit anyone, but they still cried...

    I always felt that my younger one went to school without crying, as she wanted to know what she's been missing out there. This SK, curious to learn and go to school, didnt think that crying will get him something. Bravo. :)

    Such a smart kid...God bless him.

    But the way these Govt projects are handled and misused, instead of being of any help to the public, is frustrating, sometimes.

  3. I like your hard-hitting comment, that they take months to decide on a grading system but make instant announcements abt honest handling of these funds.

    This was good to read, but sad too. I hope SK goes up in life, it's heartening to see how much his family is giving up so he can get a decent education.

  4. A gem, this post

    There is hope for the country still.. *inspite* of those in power. All around I see families like S' toiling and scraping to get their children through school. And not just any school, but what they think are good ones.

    My domestic help, after I moved to a new locality last month, is a B.Ed. She says she earns much more doing what she does now, than she used to as a teacher. She has just had to shell out 16K as annual fee for her son in the 5th std. She regrets having had her daughter very late, as the fees will be much higher by the time she gets to std. 5. The school is run by a politician who having lost the recent election is trying to make up for the financial loss by hiking the fees.

  5. Very nice- I love your posts about your household help, S!

    As for the SSS, unfortunately, only a small portion of any allotted resources reach the people they are intended for.

  6. I feel the government should stop subsidizing higher education and start focusing on good quality basic education for all. Is it such a difficult thing to understand?

    Every parent understands that sending a child to a government school is going to do them no good.

    Hats off to little SK and his heartbreaking wisdom :/

    I once read about how parents are going to be forced to send their children to school - as if a huge majority of parents aren't eager to send their children to school at unaffordable costs sometimes.

  7. It's sad to see schemes such as 'Education for Everyone' translating to 'Extra money for every crook in line'. Kids like SK need quality education without their parents having to shell-out what little they have!

  8. 'Sarva Shisksha Abhiyan means never having to say sorry to kids like SK'

    Do you think anyone cares? I don't. As for the likes of SK I've seen my ex servant doing her best for her grandkids. Money is easy to put together. But these schools have teachers who cannot teach and the kids have parents who cannot teach either. They are coached by tutors who do it because they were never fit for anything better so the coaching is poor. When the child reaches grade 6 or 7 parents are left wondering what went wrong. They pool in the last penny but get nothing in return. Yet when people like me offer to teach them they want to send their wards to tutors who are either from their own school or have some understanding with theschool. They feel it is safer.

  9. What a smart kid and it is sad that such smart kids get left out in the margins simply because they cannot afford the cost of education - despite programs like the SSA.
    Those he steal from such schemes meant for children deserve nothing less than death penalty.

  10. aativas It takes all kinds , doesnt it ? I hope we have more folks like little SK...

    UmaS SK is a wonderful spunky kid. And he is licky with the sort of family he has...

    starry You know, his older illiterate grandma is the wisest person I know !

    Arundhati If you forget the great mismatch between training and the job, I think your maids attitude about working with dignity is to be greatly admired...

    manju I enjoy listening to her stories too much for us to learn!

    IHM Isnt it amazing, that our people still manage to find a way despite official apathy and obstacles, and corruption ?

    RGB So true..

    HHG That was a new thing I learnt. Inability to recognize good help..and herd mentality in following tutions...

    Usha Absolutely .