Educationists and activists have slammed the provisional statistics of the July 4 survey by the state education department, which shows that 46,713 children are currently out of school across the state.
Educationists have alleged that the department has under-reported statistics and say that the actual number of out of school children runs into lakhs. They have also questioned the government’s plan to enrol these children in mainstream schools.
Education department officials said that the report is provisional as reports from some places in the state were yet to be compiled and added to the final tally.
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While Mumbai stands first in the list with 18,625 children reported as out of school, Nashik has the second highest number of 10,122, followed by Pune with 6,123 children.
Amita Bhide, professor and Chairperson of the Centre of Urban Planning, Policy and Governance at the School of Habitat Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), said the only issue with the survey was that the outreach was very limited and restricted. “The project will be effective, if the government would have involved the the school management committees or local education committees who can actually interact with communities in the area.
These committees can play a vital in identifying out of school students and enrolling them to mainstream schools. The formation of such committees is mandated in the RTE Act however in most places these committees still do not exist, and in areas where they exist, they are not strengthened,” said Bhide.
According to activist Ghanshyam Sonar of the Campaign Against Commercialisation of Education (CACE) , the initiative will not serve any purpose as the number of out of school children in the state is over 17 lakh. “The state government has been claiming that the state has only 86,000 out-of-school children in the age group of 6-14 years. Now they have reported 46,713. However, Central government data revealed that at 17 lakh, Maharashtra had one of the highest number of out-of-school children. Hence the state government decided to hold a count,” said Sonar.
He added that while at least 25 per cent of the 17 lakh children had never been to a school, the remaining 75 per cent have attended school at some point of time or the other but had left due to the distance, language barriers and other such reason.
Arundhati Chavan of Parents and Teachers Association, United Forum said, “It is likely that the number given are inaccurate as the state government entrusted the task of conducting to survey to teachers and government officials. They should have asked NGOs and people working for out of school children to conduct the survey. The intentions are good but there will be too many discrepancies.”
When contacted, Mahavir Mane, director of primary education department said, “The NGOs may be right when they say that the reported number of out of school children is lower than it actually is however the list is still provisional and we will finish compiling the final list by next week. Meanwhile the work of issuing Aadhaar cards to these children has already begin in some of the districts. We have appealed to the locals to report any out of school children left out of the survey.”