School on Wheels
With the Right To Education Act & Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaanenforced for a considerable amount of time now, India still has over 16 million out-of-school-children (roughly equivalent to the population of Netherlands).
A unique scheme called “Schools on Wheels” which focuses on such children has been launched by the Government with support from a number of private organisations. According to the Govt. “ This project ensures education to less settled groups of children i.e. those who live on pavements, railway platforms, street corners, brick kilns, and the children involved in child labour, etc. “.
90% of the fund for this initiative is available through the District Innovation Fund whereas the rest has to be procured from the NGOs or from the public.
The Schools on Wheels program aims to:-
- Teach children (in the age group of 6-14 years) of migratory laborers by making the school available to children at their temporary-settlements.
- Provide education to other out-of-school children who could not be enrolled to school in time or who have had to (or were made to) resort to child labour in order to provide for and support their families.
- Reach children who have befallen to Drug-addiction
- Provide education to children who belong to less settled groups of the population or nomadic tribes viz. beggars, Gujjar tribes who migrate with their herds often.
In Punjab, Tata Winger vehicle has been used for the purpose. The whole vehicle has been refurbished and equipment such as LCD screen, Books, Book Shelves, Chairs, Laptops etc., have been placed inside the same. The one time set up cost of this “school on wheels” is roughly INR 12 lakh (USD 23, 280), and the recurring monthly cost is about INR 25, 000 (USD 485).
Since the target segment is children who have not had exposure to formal education system, informal ways of teaching and learning have been used. Three key goals have been established for teaching:
- Basic proficiency in local language
- Basic Arithmetic Skills (Number Recognition, Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication & Division)
- Basic English
Even though modern technology is being used for this program, it must be ensured that the same is done adequately in a limited time frame in order to cater to this large segment of children and bring them on equal footing with other children who have formal schooling. Adolescents and youth in the rural communities are ready and enthusiastic about updating their technical skills. The recently realeased Aakash tablet stands testimony for the same, as I have come across many young people in the villages of Northern India who have ordered the Aakash tablet and are eager to learn or improve their basic computer skills.
Many private organisations are also funding this program in various states. For example, Aviva Insurance has partnered with Save the children, an NGO working for child rights, where they are reaching out to street kids in Kolkata. A Danish organisation (BAT-KARTEL) recently funded a similar initiative for stone quarry workers community in Jodhpur (in the western state of Rajasthan). I sincerely hope that this innovative model – the School on Wheels program- is successful in reaching out to a large number of children who continue to be deprived of their RIGHT TO EDUCATION.