Why Another School?

According to the provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (or the RTE Act) passed in 2009, every child in India between 6 and 14 years of age is entitled to free, compulsory and quality schooling. According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) of 2012, of India's total count of rural children, 96.5% in the 6 -14 years category and 83% in the 15 -16 years category were enrolled in school. Despite this, the quality of education in India continues to be ruled by the parameter of privilege. Also, according to a recent survey, the number of adults in India who cannot read or write is still 287 million. This means that nearly 40% of the world's illiterate pollution resides in India alone.

In India, only a handful of prestigious English-medium private schools offer world-class education and internationally recognized qualifications that none but a very small percentage of the population, the extremely wealthy, can access.

So a huge chunk of India's potential goes wasted because the parents of children from poor families, despite knowing the value of education, cannot afford to buy it. Only about 27% of India's children hailing from middle-class families are able to attend the next best thing - moderately respectable state or private schools which offer government-affiliated qualifications. These schools are known to maintain a minimum standard of education and also often offer extra-curricular activities such as sports, music, science fairs, quizzes etc.

But the majority of India’s children belongs to extremely impoverished families and cannot afford these private schools also. They attend government or municipal schools with resources and infrastructure ranging from extremely poor to non-existent compared to the private schools, resulting in impoverished learning and a high drop-out rate. 80% of all elementary schools in India fall in this category, and they may have one or more of the following problems:

  1. Schools may be too remotely located for daily commuting.
  2. Absence of a proper school building. Classes held out in the open are subject to the vagaries of the weather.
  3. Absence of drinking water facilities.
  4. Absence of lavatory facilities, or at the best, common toilets for girls and boys.
  5. An unacceptably high student: teacher ratio. The ideal ratio is one qualified and trained teacher for about 30 students, but in some places in India it goes up to 60 students per teacher.
  6. Overburdened teachers often become indifferent towards their work. If teachers fail to engage with the children in the primary level itself, if the love of learning is not inculcated at this vulnerable time, the students, many of them living below the poverty line, their lives already filled with a thousand obstacles to learning, do not find any further incentive to come to school. They prefer to become child-labourers and bring in money.
  7. Teachers are also often recruited without having the basic minimum qualifications, and “free and compulsory education” becomes a farce.
  8. Some additional reasons for girls dropping out are obligatory household chores, early marriage and conservative cultural attitudes.

Thus, the realization that money was the only deterrent to accessing quality education in our country, and that the potential of thousands of talented children from poor families was getting wasted because of financial constraints only, we at Kartavya decided that we need a new school–not one, but as many as 28, one in each metro and in each state capital–all over the country–to nurture and educate a community of financially disadvantaged children and make able citizens out of them without charging them a penny. This would dissolve the division between the privileged and underprivileged in India and honour talent and intellect over everything else. Privilege would no longer determine opportunity. The best things in life are supposed to be free. These children would be our gift to society; these active dreamers and doers, movers and shakers would change the face of the world.

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Savitribai Phule
(3 January 1831 - 10 March 1897) social reformer and poet, one of the first-generation modern Indian feminists

"All gets lost without knowledge."