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Essay, Paragraph or Speech on “Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan” Complete Essay, Speech for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is the latest initiative by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA Government to provide 8 years of quality education to all children in the age group of 6-14 years. The programme seeks to bridge gender and social gaps with active participation of the community. It also aims at mobilising resources—human, financial and institutional—necessary for achieving the goal of Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE). The highlights of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan are : (i) to cover all districts in the country during the year 2002; (ii) to bring all children to schools, Education Guarantee Centres, Alternative Schools or Back-to-School camps by the year 2003; (iii) to see that all children complete five years of education by the year 2007; and (iv) to see that all children complete eight years of quality elementary education and achieve universal retention by the year 2010.

Definitely, the objectives are laudable. But the real question is Will the Department of Elementary Education and Literacy (uncle; the aegis of the Ministry of Human Resource Development) that has launched this ambitious programme be able to fulfil these objectives ? Moreover, how is this programme different from the ones launched earlier to ensure universal elementary education, Which has now been recognised as a Fundamental Right by the Constitution ?

The earlier literacy missions, launched with much fanfare, were exciting initially. People had started sending their children to school; women had looked upon literacy classes as a means of emancipation from age-old bondage; they had enjoyed sitting together every evening, learning, talking and interacting with one another. Yet there was a U-turn when it came to any follow-up action or reinforcing the learning process. The National Literacy Mission (NLM) had committed itself to following up these literacy programmes with a post-literacy programme, leading to the setting up of continuing education centres in villages. Funds were sanctioned by the Central Government, but were not released for another two years. This led to lapse into the old non-literate days. Women and children could not sustain their fragile literacy skills. Even the much-touted 100 per cent literacy districts in Kerala and West Bengal could not keep up with the momentum of the literacy missions launched by the Government as well as several Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). But delays in the release of funds, long gaps between different phases, overnight decisions to shut down programmes and con-fused priorities between the Centre and the states crippled the momentum that was generated. The tragedy is further compounded by the fact that while the government is under utilising its funds, the programmes on the ground already are languishing for want of resources.

The important question is : How is the newly-launched Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan going to be different ? Is the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan really ‘universal’ ? A cursory reading of the document shows that the term `sarva’ is a misnomer as it refers only to children between 6 and 14 years. Adults, specially women, do not feature anywhere in the programme. The justification for the overarching focus on elementary education at the cost of adult education is captured in the supposed truisms like, “We need to shut the tap rather than keep mopping the floor.”

According to the Census 2001, the literacy rate in India is 65.38 per cent-75.85 per cent for males and 54.16 per cent for females, Kerala comes on the top with 90.92 per cent literacy. The State also occupies the premier position in both male literacy (94.20 per cent) and female literacy (87.86 per cent), Kerala is followed by Mizoram (88.49 per cent) and Lakshadweep (87.52 per cent). Bihar with a literacy rate of 47.53 per cent ranks last preceded by Jharkhand (54.13 per cent) and Jammu and Kashmir (54.46 per cent) Bihar has also the lowest literacy rates both in case of male literacy (60.32 per cent) and female literacy (33.57 per cent).

A comparison of the Census figures of 1991 and 2001 indicates that : (i) the literacy rates recorded an increase of 13.17 percentage points from 89.21 in 1991 to 65.38 in 2001, the highest rate since Independence; (ii) the female literacy rate increased by 14.87 percentage points (from 39.29 per cent to 54.16 per cent) as against 11.72 per cent (from 64.1 per cent to 75.80 per cent) in case of males; (iii) the gap in male-female literacy rates has decreased from 24.84 in the 1991 Census to 21.70 percentage points in 2001 : (iv) all the States and Union Territories, without exception, have shown in-crease in literacy rates, the male literacy rate now being over 60 per cent; (v) the States and Union Territories which have moved forward by more than fifteen percentage points during the decade are Rajasthan (22.48 per cent), Chhattisgarh (22.27 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (19.44 per cent), Dadra & Nagar Haveli (19.33 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (17.02 per cent) and Uttar Pradesh (16.65 per cent). Bihar has registered a minimum increase of 10.04 per cent points from 37.49 per cent to 47.53 percent.

One thing is noticeable that the age-group of 16 to 40 years, which the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan does not acknowledge, would arguably constitute the core of India’s civil society in the next 20 years. The Abhiyan ignores the educational needs of this vital segment of society. Literacy, the Human Resource Development Ministry must realise, is no luxury but a basic skill for men and women to function as autonomous individuals rather than as adjuncts to the literate society. If the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan really claims to be “universal”, it must address these issues as well. Otherwise, it will remain a mere political move by a tottering ring regime which is bound to go the way of its predecessors landlords are fighting to establish their one-upmanship.

Despite several commissions and committees appointed to improve the state of education as well as several literacy programmes launched to bring the people closer to education, not much headway has been made in this direction, with the result that nearly half of the over one-billion population of this sub-continent is illiterate today. We have failed to realise that education plays a significant role in the life of a nation and its importance in a country like India cannot be under-estimated. The character and quality of the people greatly depend on the education imparted to them at different levels. If we fail and flounder at the elementary level like the NLM and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the generations to come will not forgive the political leadership.

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