Though most states in India have held elections for the local bodies, the involvement of the panchayat in the functioning of the school system seems to be limited, rues one of the essays included in ‘Who Goes to School? Exploring exclusion in Indian education,’ edited by R. Govinda (www.oup.com).
“In most cases, panchayats have been responsible for constructing, repairing, and the maintenance of school building only, and the lowest tier of panchayats hardly has any say in educational matters of children and in the functioning of the local school.” The authors also fret that undue political interference by local leaders or general indifference towards educational development is undermining the positive role of panchayats in education and weakening the process of local governance as a whole.
It can be refreshing, however, to read in the book examples of community participation to ensure the reach of education at the grass-root level. One such is the initiative in Andhra Pradesh to involve community members on a large scale through programmes such as ‘Chaduvula Panduga’ (festival of education). Another example is ‘Alokar Jatra,’ from Assam, a programme whereby local communities are involved in conducting a household survey, resulting in ‘a local-level database on the educational status of children with positive impact on access and enrolment.’