Literacy race

Print edition : March 09, 2007

Schoolchildren learning fabric painting as an optional subject.-T. VIJAYA KUMAR

The SSA in the district has been a success story.

GUNTUR district continues to make all-out efforts to achieve its goal of cent per cent literacy.

One agent used to bring about this change is the Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan (SSA), the flagship programme of the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) to make school education sustainable and accessible to all. Over 4,000 primary as well as high schools in 57 revenue mandals across the district take part in the programme. Various initiatives under the SSA are spurring habitual school dropouts and slow learners to join the mainstream. The HRD Ministry and the State government make the allocations on a 75:25 basis.

The SSA involves continuous assessment, enrolment and retention of children in schools and aims to improve the quality of school education. In a district plagued by unemployment, large-scale migration and trafficking of girl children, a new impetus had to be given to the education of the girls in order to make them self-reliant. This was done by successfully initiating vocational skill development programmes, thanks to the coordination carried out by the Jana Sikshan Sansthan in 342 schools since 2006.

Over 10,000 girls of Classes VI, VIII and IX are being provided free training for nine months in 30 trades including tailoring, machine embroidery, fabric painting, production of hand-made toys and hobby electronics. The classes are conducted in the afternoons after regular classes. A trainer has been recruited for the purpose at each centre. The 100 per cent attendance that this optional programme has generated encourages the SSA to take it to more schools - both in the urban and rural areas of the district.

"There has been good response to the scheme. We stand first in the implementation of the scheme," District Collector G. Jayalakshmi told Frontline.

What began as a pilot project in October 2006 is now a full-fledged programme, thanks to the support of the district administration. "We started a short course in the preparation of sanitary napkins in October 2006. Buoyed by the tremendous response to the course, we decided to extend the programme to all schools with a good number of adolescent girls," says SSA Additional Project Director T. Shree Rama Murthy.

The National Programme for Education of Girls at Elementary Level (NPEGL) was successfully implemented in the 18 backward mandals of the district. Early Child Education (ECE) programmes were organised in 265 centres for girl children in the 3-5-year age group.

Enrolment of Outside School Children (OSC) continues to be the focus of the SSA in the district, with as many as 5,800 school dropouts being brought back to mainstream schools annually. Special attention is given to the conduct of residential bridge courses for the dropouts at 27 centres, with free board and lodging facilities.

Regular drives have helped rescue children from bonded labour. They are put in the bridge schools, before being drafted into the mainstream schools. Some of the children are enrolled in Non-Residential Bridge Courses. Special skill development programmes are conducted for rescued girls. A unique feature of the implementation of SSA in the district has been the opening of seasonal hostels in areas from where there is large-scale migration. Children of people from these parts who migrate to cities in search of work are provided free accommodation in the hostels for four months and are attached to a vidya (education) volunteer. Five such hostels were opened in the naxalite-infested Palnadu, Munigolu (in Amaravathi) and Repalle mandals. With the changing scenario in the rural areas, 31 alternative schools have been upgraded as primary schools with full-time teachers posted in them.

Having identified lack of quality as a deficiency in the education provided, the SSA seeks to rectify this through a novel programme with emphasis on improving the language skills and mathematical abilities of pupils from Classes I to VII. The Children's Language Improvement Programme (CLIP) was started in 2006 to improve knowledge of the Telugu language and mathematics. The district stood second (Krishna district came first) with a realistic success rate of 68.6 per cent. CLIP has now been upgraded to the Children's Learning Acceleration Programme for Sustainability (CLAPS). New subjects such as environmental science, English and social studies have been added to the existing ones for focussed learning in these areas. Computer-aided learning programmes have been implemented in 296 schools.

Education through compact disks, an innovative audio-visual programme, was organised with support from the Azim Premji Foundation.

The wider reach of radio has been utilised to beam programmes under `Vindaam Nerchukundam' (let's listen and learn) for children of Classes III and IV. Over 300 schools have been equipped with audio-visual gadgets, computers, sports goods and science laboratories.

Improving basic amenities in schools has been a priority area, and work in this regard has been going on at a rapid pace. Construction of additional classrooms has been taken up on a war footing; efforts are on to construct 523 classrooms in 314 schools in the district by March end. Construction of 547 toilets in 545 schools has been taken up at an estimated cost of Rs.1.14 crores. Drinking water supply was provided in 255 schools at an estimated cost of Rs.74.4 lakhs.

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