It pains to witness the current global crisis in education. According to UN estimates, 264 million children are out of school today around the world. And many more children who are in school aren’t learning enough, because of the poor conditions. For children in developing countries, missing out on education means missing out on opportunities to lift themselves out of illiteracy and poverty.
I know that access to quality education is essential, even more so in a developing country. Through the course of my work with communities, I have witnessed how children are deprived of education due to various socio-economic and political conditions.
When communal riots broke out in the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District (BTAD) region in Assam in 2012, schools were immediately shut down and converted into refugee camps. Further when the yearly floods occur in heavy monsoon areas, schools are washed away or are shut down until the flood waters subside, and post-flood rehabilitation measures are often inadequate to meet the educational needs of children.
Leaders must prioritize education
There are many villages tucked in remote locations where schools are inaccessible, where the teacher-student ratio is as low as 1:100. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The greatest threat to education is the sheer lack of political will to take education seriously.
In 2016, during a regional conference on Education Status in India and on SDGs organised by the Ministry of Human Resources in Assam, activists and practitioners shared too many dehumanizing stories of children being trafficked away from their villages because of poverty and unemployment, girls dropping out of school because of customary practices like marriage after puberty, gendered role-behavior in domestic and public spaces, extreme forms of violence against women, etc.
There are other pressing issues that put a good education out of reach for too many children: the poor quality of teaching, pedagogy and methodologies, gender insensitive learning materials that reinforce gendered behavior and norms, the lack of adequate infrastructure and teaching aids.
We must work together to make our world a better place for all
Too often we hear these stories of inadequate attention to education. It is baffling to know that India’s investment in education for the year 2016-2017 is as low as 3.65% of its total expenditure.
I strongly believe that the vision of the SDGs can only be achieved by coordinating efforts and ensuring policies that strengthen and sustain improvements to human wellbeing and quality of life by committing greater efforts towards educating every child.
As such, in a nation like India that has been growing exponentially yet still lags behind in socio-developmental areas, efforts should be streamlined towards bringing new vigor and life to governance mechanisms in the education sector.
As part of my engagement with GPE, I interviewed education advocates and put together this video.
I hope many more voices like these will rise in India and in every country around the world where education is still not a priority.