Plight of poor children highlights need for education reform

New Delhi, April 13 (ANI): Millions of children, many of them street children, are leaving school even without learning basic literacy and numeracy skills.

Salma lives in a slum next to a rubbish dump on the in the outskirts of New Delhi.

"The teachers say that they wont give admission to Bengalis because they're so dirty and when more people come they make the dirty children sit separately. When we go to the school they ask us to take our children out of the school and tell us to go to a different school," said Salma.

Although access to schools has improved dramatically, millions of India's poorest children are struggling against classroom discrimination and inadequate schooling.

In this part of town, many migrant families earn a living recycling the cities waste. She said that the teachers often refuse admission to children of migrants and 'rag pickers' because they are dirty. If they do get admission they are segregated and treated badly.

Part of the problems also lies at home.

In a country where around 70 percent of the population lives on under 2 U.S. dollars a day, parents are often hesitant in sending all their children to school because they required to help earn for the family.

Khurshida is a single mother with five children.

She didn't send her eldest daughter to school because she needs her help to pay the bills.

"My daughters name is Annemari, she is 16 years old. She goes to work; if she doesn't go to work then there isn't enough food in our house. That is why I didn't get her admitted into the school," Khurshida said.

Child dropout rates are extremely high, particularly amongst girls and disabled children. This is partly attributed poor sanitation, crippling infrastructure and institutional discrimination.

Forty percent of the schools do not have functioning toilets and few are equipped to accommodate children with special needs.

'Save The Children India's', CEO, Thomas Chandy said that many of the children who are in school are failing to learn even basic numeracy and literacy skills.

"The issue is if you really look at the learning levels of those students you will find that there are many students falling through the cracks and not having learnt much. Even the very basic things of numeric ability or reading ability you will find that that is being missed out," he said.

Save the Children is coordinating an exchange program with education experts from across Asia and Europe to establish a framework for education reform in India.

Professor David Scott from the Institute of Education in London is involved in the research.

He said without education reform, India faces an economic disadvantage and the prospect of future adults failing to progress out of poverty.

"The economy is likely to be less buoyant as a result of lack of education of the populous so in that sense it's a huge disadvantage. There is a much more important sense about education which is that it is about the well-being of the child and clearly if there is a lack in the educational process that is going to translate into a lack of well-being for the child when they grow up into being an adult," Scott said.

India is investing heavily in education and is working hard to ensure that every child has access to a school.

The problem now is to ensure that those children are engaged enough to stay in school and to learn.

In this government school in New Delhi, teachers are using more interactive learning techniques to engage the students.

They have also installed ramps for disabled pupils and segregated toilets for boys and girls. (ANI)

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