SEATTLE — In India, one in four children of school-going age is out of school. In sheer numbers, this means that as of 2011, 99 million children in total had dropped out of school.
As shown from the figure above, the right to education so determinedly enshrined in the Indian Constitution has not borne its fruits. Access to education is lacking for a large part of the youth. It is in this environment that Children’s Rights and You (CRY) launched its School the Spark campaign this July.
A well-established NGO founded in 1979, CRY has implemented various projects over the years to address a broad range of issues that affect children in India, including child labor and female foeticide. School the Spark is their latest effort in this direction, working towards helping children stay in school.
The path to achieving this major goal is not without obstacles. Factors that contribute to the poor enrollment and dropout rates include poor teaching quality, altogether absent teachers and high costs of private schools that tend to offer far better education than public schools. In addition, Indian societal norms play a role in defining childhood as a time to help the family, causing children to go out and work at young ages rather than attending school. Gender inequality only exacerbates the problem by placing the burden of marriage on girls rather than encouraging them to study.
These structural problems ensure that even children who can access schooling tend to end up working, tending to their families or simply not learning anything in their local schools. CRY’s School the Spark addresses these issues by working both on the ground as well as on a larger policy level.
The approach on the ground involves mobilizing parents and communities to send their children to school, ensuring that schools in intervention areas are RTE compliant, improving security for girls to ensure safe access to schools and lobbying for schools where they do not already exist.
At the policy advocacy level, CRY works with local and national government bodies towards advocacy for the implementation of the National Policy on Early Childhood Care and Education Policy, amending the RTE to incorporate critical parameters of quality, equity and monitoring, creating specific policies for marginalized populations, advocacy and research towards alleviating child marriages and budget reallocation, among others.
With these mobilization and advocacy measures, School the Spark is helping over 79,000 children to attend and stay in school.
Despite its large outreach in India, CRY is only one of the many organizations around the world helping underprivileged children access an education. In a time when over 124 million children and adolescents are out of school, it is essential that countries invest in education by providing aid to countries where this problem is most acute.
U.S. Congress has acknowledged that the amount of foreign aid being invested in education in developing countries is far too low. Therefore, as recently as September 7, the House passed the Education for All Act, a bill to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to include multilateral educational aid as much in the interest of developing countries as for US national security. Help get this bill the attention it deserves by emailing your senators here.
– Mallika Khanna