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Education Act in India : Issues and Challenges

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Central Legislation through State Governments

State Government ownership is
critical
They are gauging the implications
First Central Act in Education –
unchartered territory for every one

 

Infrastructure Provision

Every school be equipped with certain minimum
infrastructure
Despite recent investments, huge gaps exist
Government faces a huge challenge of ensuring quality of
infrastructure and its maintenance
Equally a problem for NGO initiatives
Small private schools would also face difficulty
Recognition of NGO and Private Schools depend on
upgrading the infrastructure to meet the RTE norms
Can we afford to push them out altogether? What would
happen to children attending these schools? Should the
government provide supplementary resources?

 

Provision of Qualified Teachers

Ensuring teacher supply at 1:30 is a huge task
Teacher Pupil ratio to be monitored in every school
More than a million teachers have to appointed
Inadequacy of Institutions for teacher training
Issue of Redeployment and transfer of teachers
 Some states have begun to appoint teachers to schools
 Some are appointing to a Block Cadre with limited scope
for transfer.

 

 

 

 

NGO – Role of Indigenous People

There are still a large number of communities
in the region, inhabiting remote areas, in close
proximity to nature, practising traditional farming,
fishing, agricultural and forestry techniques.
Conserving the environment is a part of their way of
life. The age-old traditions and experiences of these
communities (usually termed “indigenous people”)
can help improve the efficiency of resource use and
it is for this reason that a number of NGOs build on
traditional or indigenous knowledge systems. These
knowledge systems are researched and disseminated
so that the wider public can learn from them.

Major groups in indigenous communities
themselves are also active in environmental
protection. An example which illustrates how local
indigenous groups are actively involved in
conservation work, is Soltrust, one of the major local
indigenous organizations in the Solomon Islands
dedicated to promoting sustainable forest
management, where logging operations are a major
concern for both the government and the indigenous
peoples. Despite many awareness campaigns on
sustainable development, both the number of logging
companies, and the unsustainable rate of harvesting
of timber resources have been increasing. Established
in 1986, the group’s more recent work has involved
the Rarade Community of the Isabel Province, and
island province that has been out of reach by loggers
until recently. A partnership between Soltrust and
the community was created as a model for future
eco-forestry activities, not only in Isabel and in the
Solomon Islands at large, but also for neighbouring
countries facing similar situations (United Nations
1998).

In many parts of the region, rapid
industrialization, the development of suburbs and
the conversion of land for agricultural purposes has
encroached upon the traditional homeland of
indigenous people. At the same time greater numbers
of indigenous people have either become displaced
because of development or have moved into urban
areas in pursuit of education and/or employment.
This has resulted in the reservations and sanctuaries
shrinking in size and often being hemmed in by
developmental projects, with negative consequences
for their once pristine environment. However,
indigenous groups are now beginning to organize
resistance movements. In Australia, for example,
aboriginal communities in states such as Queensland
have joined forces with environmental groups to
prevent the further depletion of their land and forest
reserves by logging and mining concerns. In New
Zealand, people of Maori descent have banded
together to assert claims to their land and also to
protect them from further environmental damage. A
number of tribes have petitioned the courts in order
to reclaim their tribal lands. In the northern part of
Thailand, the increasing mobility of traditional people
poses a serious threat to the “sustainability” of the
hilltribes distinct cultures. The threat comes from
the influx of consumerism, lack of land security and
large migrations to the cities. In order to counter
these threats the “Inter Mountain Peoples Education
and Culture in Thailand Association” (IMPECT) was
founded with the intention of supporting, promoting
and revitalising the traditional belief systems,
agricultural traditions and cultures of the hilltribes.
To make the children and youth proud of their
culture, the relationship between the traditional
lifestyle and the conservation of their natural
surrounding has been promoted through a locally
developed curriculum. In response there has been
an increased feeling of the value of traditional
knowledge among the children and youth in the
target villages.
The close links between some NGOs and
indigenous communities, especially vulnerable
groups, also provides for the representation of such
groups at the national and international levels. This
is important for resolving issues, especially those
related to globalization and its homogenizing
influences that endangers indigenous cultures and
cultural diversity.

NGO Contribution Toward Making Cities Child-friendly

Sporadic urban growth in many cities in Asia and the Pacific poses significant risks to the well-being of children. Research
commissioned by UNICEF has noted that the health and often the lives of more than half of the world’s children are constantly
threatened by environmental hazards, in their home and surroundings and in the places where they play and socialize. The research
also indicates that 40 000 child deaths occur each year from malnutrition and disease, and that 150 million children a year survive
with ill health, with retarded physical and mental development. More and more young people are being admitted to hospital with
asthma due to car fumes, while other pollutants are linked with a whole range of other health problems in the young. Shanty town
dwellings with inadequate basic facilities exposes children to diseases and dangers, while traffic claims many young lives on a daily
basis. Because of such problems, one of the greatest challenge for urban administrations in the new millennium is in the area of child
development and protection.
In Malaysia a number of concerned NGOs have got together to try and address this challenge. In September 1996, The
Malaysian Council for Child Welfare (MCCW) and the National Council for Women’s Organizations (NCWO) organized a National
Conference on the Right of the Child in Kuala Lumpur. The Conference was supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund
(UNICEF), Malaysia and received technical cooperation from Asia-Pacific 2000, which is a Project of the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP).
At this conference, serious concerns were raised about the quality of life of the urban child, who is often caught between his or
her own needs and aspirations and that of his parents. Subsequent to this meeting, on 5th July 1997, the MCCW, NCWO and the
Management Institute for Social Change (MINSOC), with technical support from Asia-Pacific 2000 and UNICEF, organized a followup
national workshop on ‘The Urban Vision 2020 Initiative: Making Urban Areas Child-Friendly’. Involving over 150 participants
from government departments, tertiary institutions, non-governmental organizations as well as interested individuals, the workshop
concluded with concrete proposals on improving the socio-economic environment of children, addressing issues that arise within the
home, school or community pace and the safety and health of urban children.
Out of these deliberations, there emerged the Malaysian Charter on Making Urban Areas Child-Friendly and its associated Ten
Strategic Actions aimed specifically at urban local authorities. The Initiative then commissioned the development of a child-friendly
survey instrument – ‘The Child’s Report Card’ as a tool for children to assess the friendliness of their own neighbourhood environments.
The Malaysian Child-Friendly Cities Initiative is a complement of the International Child-Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI)
which was launched during the International Workshop on Children’s Rights. The objective of the CFCI is to help translate the
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), into concrete actions that can be implemented at the local level, by just about everyone.

Empowering Women

Women’s NGO groups are working to empower women and improve their standing in the decision making process. One
example is the (Indian) Community Development Society (CDS), Alappuzha (Alleppey). This is a successful model of women in
development that has now been replicated in 57 towns and one entire district in Kerala State. The objective of the CDS is to improve
the situation of children under 5 and of women age 15 to 45 years. CDS work includes literacy programmes, income generating
schemes for women, provisions of safe drinking water, low cost household sanitary latrines, kitchen gardens, food-grain bank,
immunization, and child-care. The CDS has resulted in the empowerment of women and the building of community leadership. It
is a unique example of community based poverty eradication efforts by women. Since its small start in 1993, the CDS has grown to a
large-scale women’s movement with membership of 357 000 poor women (20 per cent of poor people in the State) from both rural
and urban areas.
Similar work in empowering women to play an active role in environmental improvement and development is done by the
Aurat Foundation in Pakistan and Seikastu Club in Japan. The Aurat Foundation works to help women acquire greater control over
knowledge and resources; to facilitate women’s greater participation in political processes and governance; and to transform social
attitudes and behaviour to address women’s concerns and development. The Foundation works directly at a grass roots level on
environmental issues. It has facilitated meetings between peasant women and policy makers, planners and political representatives,
as a result of which the women were able to express their concern about the impact of environmental degradation on their livelihood
and their lives. The Foundation has also lobbied with Government about the concerns of peasant women and has championed the
demands of rural women to the technology transfer and agriculture extension departments in Punjab. This has led to the development
of demonstration and training projects designed to improve the productivity of peasant women.
In Nepal, a local NGO, Women in Environment (WE), attempts to counter both environmental degradation and poverty by
getting women actively involved in environmental projects. Working with women social workers, environmentalists, women’s
rights advocates and other volunteers the organization has successfully mobilized women to work on such projects as National Park
buffer zone management, river bank stabilization, kitchen garden development and the creation of revolving loan fund for
environmental work. The Sindh Rural Women’s Uplift Group in Pakistan owns 108 acres (43 hectares) of fruit orchard in which they
use “organic and sustainable cultural practices” to fight against the use of synthetic pesticide and insecticide. The Group believes in
maintaining soil and plant health to reduce disease attacks – and to reduce environmental contamination.
Another example of an NGO group which works with women to develop sustainable solutions to environmental problems is
the Viet Nam Women’s Union (VWU). This is a large organization with over 11 million members, which promotes the role that
women play in Vietnamese society. In order to promote energy self-sufficiency for rural families with no access to the electrical grid
the VWU has joined in the Rural Solar Electrification Project, in conjunction with the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) – an American
non-profit NGO which promotes rural electrification. The project has provided electricity – from solar photovoltaic cells – for
240 households and to 5 community centres. This is an especially timely initiative, since Viet Nam is in the process of designing a
national rural electrification master plan with the World Bank in order to integrate renewable sources of energy into an overall rural
power delivery system.

NGO – Awareness-Raising, Campaigning and Advocacy

Across the region a large array of groups work
to raise awareness of environmental issues and push
for changes in policy and development programmes.
These groups carry out environmental awareness
raising and campaigning locally, nationally, and
internationally, with some campaigns operating
simultaneously at all levels. In India, for example,
the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP) has earned
international recognition for its work in mobilising
public opinion among people’s organizations in
the State of Kerala (United Nations 1995). The KSSP
is regarded as one of the best-informed and
best-organized grassroots movement in India, with
over 20 000 members.
In Pakistan, the Society for the Conservation
and Protection of the Environment (SCOPE),
established in 1988, is particularly successful at
national environmental campaigns, whilst giving
priority to developing linkages with local NGOs,
research institutes, universities and government
departments. In addition SCOPE motivates
grassroots groups and undertakes public interest
litigation and advocacy work (Non Governmental
Liaison Service 1997).
Scientific and technical NGOs are assisting
in bridging the gap between science, policy makers
and the citizenry. Their research and education
work is proving a vital addition to the decision and
policy-making process. In India, for instance, the
Centre for Science and Environment publishes ‘Citizen’s Reports on the Environment’ which focus
on specific environmental issues, such as urban
pollution, and flood management. Written in nontechnical
languages, these reports enable the general
public to better understand the issues.
Many of the more established NGOs in the
region work on major national campaigns using a
range of promotion activities, from grassroots
awareness-raising, through to lobbying and media
campaigns (Box 14.2). Such campaigns are multifaceted,
involving research, awareness-raising,
education and lobbying. The Worldwide Fund for
Nature (WWF) in Malaysia, for example, has
launched the Species 2 000 Campaign to mobilize
effective national action to conserve Malaysia’s
wildlife. (WWF Malaysia, Website 6). In doing so,
WWF Malaysia has forged partnerships with many
groups involved in conservation, from Federal and
State government agencies to universities, other
NGOs and local community groups. Similar alliances
have been made by environmental groups in India,
Malaysia and Philippines to raise the awareness of
governments and the general public with regard to
the loss of fauna and flora species and consequences
for biodiversity.
One of the great challenges for NGOs
campaigning on environmental issues is to involve
as many people as possible and, particularly where
religion plays a major role in everyday life, getting
the environmental message across to key religious
groups. The Alliance of Religions and Conservation
(ARC) has been working internationally with many
faiths to forge new, practical models of religious
involvement with environmental issues. The group
espouses the Ohito Declaration of 1995, a declaration
on religions, land and conservation that states
“for people of faith maintaining and sustaining
environmental life systems is a religious
responsibility” (Xiamin and Halbertsma 1997). The
Ohito Declaration and the work of organizations such
as ARC has led to the re-discovery of ‘holy ground’
and the concept of the need for Man to preserve and
protect the environment by all the major religions of
the world.
The scope of ARC’s network activities is shown
in the involvement of the Taoists, who formally joined
ARC in 1995; the ninth faith to do so. Following
meetings with WWF/ARC staff, the Taoists asked
ARC to join them in launching a campaign to protect
their sacred holy mountains in China, which were
threatened by changes in forestry, agriculture, urban
development and, of late, tourism.
Beyond national frontiers, many environmental
NGOs have joined forces to campaign internationally.
WALHI, Indonesia, for instance, worked alongside
international NGOs such as WWF to bring the plight.

NGOs and Global Advocacy

During the 1970s social activists were urged to “think globally and act locally”. Over the past 10-15
years a vibrant NGO community has emerged in the South with a profound impact on development
practice and thinking. Alternative NGO sponsored conferences took place alongside all the global UN
conferences of the 1990s. Activists from both South and North joined to lobby governments and an
international agency to give greater priority to the world’s poor and marginalized.
In response to lobbying against some of its policies, the World Bank reached out to its NGO critics,
which now play a much bigger role in Bank-funded projects. Other changes include the appointment of
NGO liaison officers in most Bank country offices and a grater recognition of the importance and input
of NGOs to the Bank’s work. NGOs have also held the Bank accountable to its own procedures and
policies. NGO submissions to the World Bank Inspection Panels on the Arun III Hydroelectric Project
in Nepal weighed heavily in the Bank’s decision not to finance the project.
NGOs have put pressure on all the UN agencies as well as governments to follow up the goals
and commitments of the global conferences.
For the Kyoto protocol, NGOs have been pushing for an agreement that will have a significant
impact on global greenhouse, and gas emissions rather that one that settles for cosmetic
changes. At the Kyoto meeting NGOs pressured national governments and multilateral
agencies to release a 10-point call for action. The declaration forms the basis for ongoing
NGO advocacy and lobbying on climate change. Similar declarations have been submitted by
a group of NGOs from Eastern and Central Europe. Friends of the Earth and the World
Wildlife Fund for Nature have been active in raising awareness about how private sector
concerns appear to be dominating the discussions on how the protocol is to be implemented.
They have also raised concerns that the final outcome will have no meaningful impact on
greenhouse and gas emissions.

Focus Areas for Developmental ICTs

In the following subsections we discuss the role of ICTs in different developmental sectors. Both urban and rural citizen consumers may benefit from ICT projects by receiving: (i) enhanced access to information and communication across large distances, (ii) improved access to governmental and quasi-governmental resources and services, (iii) opportunities to trade or bank online through kiosks, (iv) opportunities to design, manufacture and market their products through internet or intranet systems, (v) education through computers or about computers or both, and (vi) superior medical advice, diagnosis or knowledge in their own locality.
This listing is by no means encyclopedic, and is intended only as a guide to the unfolding landscape. Social Investors and Social Entrepreneurs are invited to think of these resources as an incomplete tool-kit, or kit-of-parts, that may be assembled together for new and innovative applications, experiments, and project. Certain specialized application areas, including Global Information Systems (GIS), and Agri-input initiatives, for example, have been omitted for clarity and space.
Technology & Infrastructure Developments
The three major hurdles to the use of Information Technology in rural areas of South Asia have been: (i) inappropriate software (ii) expensive hardware and (iii) weak telecommunications infrastructure. In each of these fields, however, the landscape is slowly changing.
The Centre for the Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC; http://www.cdacindia.com) has been working on Indian language fonts and software for over a decade. Most state-sponsored IT initiatives, as well as many rural ICT projects, now use their fontographic standards, if not their text-processing software. In another significant development, a machine language translation project based in Hyderabad called Anusaraka (www.iiit.net/anu/anu_home.html) promises to allow Indian language users translation between various Indian languages, as well as access to English language resources on the web.
As even occasional computer users will be aware, the cost of hardware is continuously falling, such that computers that were state-of-the-art 3 or 4 years ago, are now available for a fraction of their original cost. Those computers – or, indeed, new computers configured just like them – are still good for basic text-processing, email, and browsing functions. In addition, however, new entrants into the basic computing market such as the Simputer (www.simputer.org) and the iStation (www.inablers.net) have been specifically designed for a mass market, including both urban and rural users.
As mentioned above, Wireless-in-Local-Loop and related technologies have emerged as a cheaper, smarter form of telecom infrastructure, in comparison with traditional wire telephony. The TeNet Group (tenet.res.in) at the IIT-Madras has been at the frontline in developing technology solutions designed to improve telecommunications infrastructure in rural areas. The group has incubated several companies that work up and down the value chain in this sector, including, most recently, n-Logue Communications, which is working as a rural internet service provider.