The society here persists to be largely pre literate oral culture where the written word either has a limited penetration or is understood by a few. While on paper, it might appear that primary schools exist on paper in almost every village of the district and that there is high percentage of enrolment and retention of all children attending school, however, if we move beyond the ‘official’ records, one would be revealed a different and a more complex picture. It is widely spoken that in some schools, even absent children are also marked present, especially when distribution of mid day rations is linked to attendance. There are not enough Govt. run upper primary schools/ middle schools in the rural region and communication hurdles in the arid zone is a reality.

Frequent teacher absenteeism, lack of educational materials, discriminatory behaviour of teachers or peers, use of language that is alien to the language that is spoken at home, absence of female teachers, lack of ability to meet the school’s academic demands, a poor learning atmosphere, lack of enthusiasm amongst teachers etc. are some of the other reasons discouraging children’s participation in schools. Pushing children from one grade to the next (no detention policy) without ensuring learning not only defeats the very purpose of schooling, but, as voiced by people, is actually cheating the poorest. There is growing evidence to show that those who can so afford are already taking recourse to private tuitions or private schools.

Children from poor households tend to absent themselves for a range of reasons. Parents say it is difficult for them to ‘force’ their children to go to school, especially when ‘nothing much happens there’. One can easily spot young girls as well as boys playing cards or marbles on the roadside.

When it comes to the overall enrolment rate in schools, girls lag behind. The gender division of work and added responsibility of household work (which includes taking care of the siblings, attending to milch cows / goats, fetching fuel wood / fodder, water, running errands and looking after sick family members etc.) on girls in the family directly impacts on their learning abilities. Given the nutritional status of most poor children, energy levels are low and impact upon children’s ability to concentrate in school.

Enrolment and attendance is not only determined by economic situation but also by the social status of groups. The attitudes and prejudices of teachers and children regarding social and community identities of marginal groups in the school also play an important role in defining educational out- comes for the latter. Despite all tall claims and the fact that there exists a Govt. school in the vicinity in Gharsisar, education is still a distant dream for many a children, especially girl children.

These issues are related to access, the quality of education, existing social support systems which is coupled by the geophysical, socioeconomic conditions peculiar to the Thar.

Adverse conditions at home and the prevailing social structure hold back these children from asso- ciating themselves with the mainstream educational system. This has resulted in serious social implications, both within the family as well as within the society. The well being of the next generation also depends upon these factors.

And yet…Institute of Fundamental Studies and Research is convinced that ‘There is a notable willingness amongst the poor to pay (although ability is often limited or non-existent), and to make sacrifices for what they perceive to be good quality education at an affordable cost’.

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