Literacy is the stepping stone to social and economic empowerment, something India’s marginalized communities need desperately. With education, they can only access the many essential services and rights they are entitled to, but also enhance their standard of living with more opportunities. Children from marginalized Indian communities who are not exposed to literacy materials like books and stories, and formal access to language, reading, and writing development do not see brain development at par with their more privileged peers. A significant proportion of India’s children are unable to demonstrate even the most basic levels of reading achievement, something that has been noted prominently in children from poor families, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and ethnic minority groups.
Despite 70 years of India’s independence and the implementation of the Right to Education, the nation still sees children face caste and financial discrimination. Parents are discouraged from sending their children to schools due to this discrimination. It is important to not only provide access, but also ensure marginalized children are kept in school, to create equitable and inclusive quality education and lifelong learning for all. Specially-abled children from marginalized Indian communities should also be given protection to access education.
2. Gender Discrimination
For many slums and rural regions, educating girl children is considered a wasted investment, as girls are deemed destined only to become homemakers. Additionally, lack of sanitation facilities for girls, lack of support and motivation from parents, and lack of gender-sensitive material are all factors that discourage girls from education.
3. High dropout rate
Despite aggressive initiatives to attract children to schools, six million children remain out of school, and two out of five drop out before completing elementary school. These numbers are much higher for children who hail from disadvantaged groups. Lower learning outcomes from historically disadvantaged and economically weaker communities are prominent, also due to discrimination in schools and poor facilities. This requires teacher training to focus on inclusive learning practices and ensure greater children participation, as well as healthy interaction among children from diverse backgrounds.
4. Multilingual diversity
Many children from disadvantaged homes do not have access to print reading material in their mother tongue or first language. Schools often do not appreciate the need for multilingual diversity, something that defines India’s cultural diversity. It is important to influence a multilingual reading and writing culture. This is a prominent issue in communities with substantial tribal and Dalit populations. In many regions, there can be as many as eight different languages and dialects, that differ from language used for classroom instruction
5. Lack of vocational training
It is often found that India’s educational setup completely ignores the need for exposure to vocational training. Education is therefore viewed as irrelevant ‘bookish learning’ by parents, who seek to ensure their children are able to earn a livelihood as soon as possible. This is one of the many reasons why India sees consistently high school dropout rates.
While these issues must be taken cognizance of, the country’s vision of universal education via the enactment of the 2009 Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act has made tremendous gains. Schemes such as the mid-day meal programme benefit millions of children daily, and attract enrollment. Powered by the support of those who donate to NGO fundraising, NGOs like Save the Children execute comprehensive programs of education access and enrollment, and dialogue at community events to promote the importance of education. Through gender-sensitive study material and engagement programmes, the NGO has enabled girls to become their family’s first generation learners. Donate online to support this noble cause.