The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Joshi school scheme stumbles

New Delhi, Nov. 7: Murli Manohar Joshi’s pet scheme, Sarva Sikhsha Abhiyan (SSA), has failed to achieve one of its primary objectives of having all children in the 6-14 years age group in school by the beginning of next year.

With barely a couple of months to go before the 2003 deadline lapses, the number of out-of-school children stands at a staggering 3.5 crore out of a total of 19.2 crore in this age group.

The scheme aims to send all children to school by 2003 and make them complete five years of primary schooling by 2007 and eight years by 2010. But like all targets whose deadlines have had to be extended, the SSA, too, seems to be heading in that direction.

The project started at a slow pace, with some of the states failing to meet their commitments. Disbursal of funds has been tardy and barring some states, particularly in south India, most have taken their time despatching progress reports.

“In 2003, the first of Murli Manohar Joshi’s promise of sending all children in the 6-14 years age group will be broken,” says Sanjiv Kaura of the National Alliance of Fundamental Right to Education. He lays the blame for the slow start of the scheme on both the Centre and states.

Education, according to activists and educationists, is not the priority of most state governments who fail to keep their commitments and meet deadlines set by the Centre.

To decentralise the process, the human resource development ministry has suggested routing the money directly to the local sarva siksha committees instead of to state governments.

It is the government’s perception that community monitoring ensures a much better implementation of the programme rather than if left to government agencies.

The SSA pins much hope on community participation. A report on the programme says: “The success of Sarva Siksha Abhiyan will depend on the quality of community based planning process.”

To give the scheme a symbolic boost, the Centre is planning to get some 4,000-odd out-of-school children to Delhi on November 14. At a programme called Rashtriya Bal Sanskar Sangam, these children will attend orientation classes by volunteers from government agencies and non-government organisations. The children will be in the 8-14 age group.

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