ACCORDING to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), there are approximately 22.8 million out-of-school children in the country. Not surprisingly, this ratio is higher in rural areas than their urban counterparts.
Socioeconomic disparities and the struggling state of educational infrastructure are two of the core factors contributing to poor enrolment in public-sector schools. Most parents are reluctant to send their children to schools because of the dilapidated condition of the public schools in their respective areas. Further, due to economic pressures, they either teach them ordinary skills or urge their children to work in hotels and restaurants against daily wages.
To surmount the long-standing hurdles in the way of quality basic education, public stakeholders need to do a few things rather urgently. First and foremost, the trust deficit between the centre and its federating units need to be wiped clean. An independent body comprising educationists and policy experts must be formed to improve overall coordination.
The government should give incentives to parents for having their children enrolled in schools. Giving credit facilities to parents would be productive as most parents do not send their children to schools due to financial constraints.
The government should also invest heavily in educational infrastructure. Priority must be given to teachers’ recruitment process and their professional training, as well as on having decent classrooms and proper sanitation system.
Last but not least, the government should realise that the Single National Curriculum (SNC) alone will not eliminate the prevailing education apartheid in the country. It will take a lot more than a controversial curriculum to set things right in the education sector.