The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Non-formal education an integral component of universalization of India in 1979-80. The aim of the NFE is to provide elementary education, comparable to the quality of formal education, to the children in the 6-14 age group engaged in their domestic works. The programme was scheduled to be implemented by the state government and non-governmental organizations. In the NFE centres run by the state government, the Central assistance to the state would be provided on sharing basis between the government of India and the state government in the ratio of 60:40 (for co-education centres) and 90:10 (for exclusively girls centres). Cent per cent Central assistance was provided to the NGOs for running such centres.

The government of West Bengal took up the programme in 1979 but discontinued it from 1990-91. Since then, the programme was implemented by NGOs with cent per cent Central assistance. The state was thus deprived from availing itself of the Central assistance for programme on eradication of illiteracy. No NFE centre was set up under the government sector between 1995-96 and 1999-2000 during the period of continuance of the scheme in the state.

The state government, the mass education extension directorate and the district offices were not aware of the activities of the NGOs and did not monitor their activities though copies of sanction of funds released to the NGOs were regularly endorsed to the directorate and state government by GOI. The state government did not conduct any review of the activities of NGOs as required by GOI.

NFE centres were set up in the districts with higher percentage of literacy by depriving the districts with lower percentage of literacy and population of backward classes of hilly and tribal areas.

Implementation of the programme suffered due to ineffective or non-existent inspection, supervision and monitoring. Test-check of performance of 3 NGOs revealed that 79 per cent of the targeted group of learners remained outside the ambit of education. Only 12 per cent of the successful NFE learners could take admission in upper primary and formal education in respect of 4 NGOs.

GOI released Rs 34.07 lakh to one NGO in Uleberia-I Block, against 100 non-existent centres. One NGO in South 24 Parganas district furnished fictitious figures of learners.

The number of attendance registers (87 per cent) [which] could not be produced by 3 NGOs was 1,439, indicating doubtful existence/functioning of the NFE centres.

Though a primary level course had been designed for two years, one NGO in North 24 Parganas district ran NFE centres for one year.

Rs 8.22 lakh were reportedly spent by two NGOs for lighting charges for 137 NFE centres though these were organized during day time. Genuineness of the expenditure was therefore doubtful.

The pre-sanction appraisal committee organized only 4 meetings for four years, against the prescribed norm of 16.

The NFE programme introduced in the state in 1979 with Central assistance was subsequently revised in 1993 with emphasis on organization, flexibility, relevance of curriculum, diversity in learning activities to suit the needs of learners through decentralized management.

The principal secretary to the government of West Bengal, mass education extension department was responsible for implementation of the scheme under the state government and for monitoring the activities of other NGOs. At the directorate level, the deputy director, MEE, was responsible for allocation, inspection, monitoring, supervision and compilation of reports/returns of the NGOs. The district mass education extension officer was to provide technical and academic support to NFE programmes in the district. In all the NFE centres run by the NGOs, the project officer was responsible at the project level for educating, orienting and training the instructors of NFE centres and supervision of 100 NFE centres.

As per guidelines the programme was to be implemented by the state government and the NGOs. Their view of the scheme covered the period from the year 1995-96 to 1999-2000. State level periodical evaluation was to be conducted by a joint evaluation team and [there would be] a field visit of Central and state officials for evaluation of the work of NFE project.

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