Special Correspondent

‘Providing quality education to all children in 5-14 age group difficult’

62 per cent of schools still did not have toilets for girls

Drop out rate high among children of minorities

Bangalore: There are 7.6 million children who are out of school in India to this day. This is a drop from the 32 million out of schoolchildren in the country when Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) project started in 2001.

This despite SSA’s target of providing quality education to all children aged between five and 14 by 2010 was not an easy goal to reach, Champak Chatterjee, Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy, exuded hope in his lecture at Bangalore International Centre on Thursday on “New Perspectives on Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan”. He said that universalisation of secondary education was the thrust area in the 11th Plan and SSA was working towards achieving it.

Lack of facilities

Pointing out that 62 per cent of schools were still without toilets for girls, Mr. Chatterjee underlined the need to provide fundamental amenities such as drinking water and sanitation to retain children in schools. It was crucial to have convergence of educational initiatives with other projects such as Total Sanitation Mission to achieve the 11th Plan’s vision of quality education to all, he added.

Admitting that retention of children in schools was a worrying issue, he said the next area of priority would be “hard to reach” children such as street children and those in slums. The drop out rate was particularly high among children from minority communities and those from Scheduled Tribes, he said.

Initiatives such as bridge schools and residential schools would help reduce gender and social category gaps, said Mr. Chatterjee.

SSA project was of mammoth scale targeted at children in one million schools across the country, he said. The report cards of all these schools were compiled by SSA, he added.