Odisha: Shiksha Chetna Abhiyan: Rekindling the hope in Kiran's life
Kiran was happy in more ways than one- a new book in her hand which is her own now, a sky-blue frock which seems to have eluded her for over a year, some candies which she firmly gripped in her left palm and so many new friends around. Life has certainly thrown a big surprise to this seven year old girl who has until now spent time at her home helping her mother in some petty household chores or her brother when he went out to keep an eye on the cattle and a herd of goats that her family rear to earn their livelihood. Now, she is enrolled into class II at a school in the neighbourhood.
It feels great that life for Kiran is never going to be the same again. Upon asked why she did not go to a school until now like many others of her age did, Kiran's innocence unveiled the obvious-to-many: her parents never thought of sending her to a school. She does not even know whether two of her three siblings (all brothers) ever went to a school. But she says firmly that Biju bhai was going to a school for some time, but not now. After her father (Dibakar Gouda) sold off the goats that they possessed her other brother- Kaila bhai went to Surat to join the eldest one: Sanjay bhai.
Kiran would not stop thanking her paternal uncle and Mrs Bharati Kumari Sahu, the Head Teacher of the Girls UP School, Dura, Ganjam that she is going for 3 days now, for they were instrumental in convincing her father- Dibakar Gouda and mother-Kamini Gouda about the benefits of education and the provisions of the revolutionary Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act-2009, popularly known as the Right to Education (RTE) Act. Dibakar would not have sent his daughter to the school if he had to spend money for buying books or a dress for his daughter.
Kiran appears to be on the top of the world, with so many friends around and with a book in her hand which she says she would love the most. It was too early for her to tell us what she wants to be when she grows up. However, she confided that she would continue studying as long as she can. And why not, the euphoria will need some time to sink in! The school is also celebrating Kiran's admission along with some other new entrants who joined the school in its induction class during the pravesh utsav marking the first day of the state wide campaign: Shiksha Chetna Abhiya ( SCA).
The novelty of SCA launched by the School and Mass Education Deptt of Orissa in collaboration with Rural Development Deptt., ST and SC Development Deptt. and UNICEF office for Orissa, cannot perhaps see a better manifestation than having all the Kirans of the state enrolled in their neighbourhood schools. The 6-days long abhiyan with a basket of activities at the school levels was envisaged primarily for gearing up the implementation of RTE Act in the State. For little over a year now the Deptt., unlike many other states is not playing a wait and watch.
Rather it has been a front-runner in terms of kick-starting an array of activities on a fast track starting with providing the required impetus in sensitizing the parents, guardians, community members, teachers, PRI members and administrators to ensure that children in the age group of 6-14 years are not denied their rights to elementary education. Going forward, crores of rupees will be sent, millions of man-hours would be dedicated for the purpose. But the real impact will be made at the cutting-edge level only by having all the Kirans in their neighbourhood schools.
There have been eye- brows raised over the quality of education in the state run schools. But then, somewhere there has to be a starting point. SCA promises to snowball into an impact-making larger revolution going from strength to strength with required support from and involvement of all the stakeholders to ensure quality education at the elementary level. I do have reasons to believe that quality education or lack of it is just there in our mind.