Elementary Education for the Poorest and other Deprived Groups: The Real Challenge of Universalization
Rough estimates indicate that nearly 60-70 million children in the age group of 6-13 years do not attend school in India and remain deprived of the basic right to learn. This despite the fact that the goal of the universalization of elementary education has been a stated objective of the Indian nation state since its inception and has received greater attention in the recent past. Existing information clearly reveals that the majority of children outside the school system belong to poor and other deprived groups. Although many studies exist on related issues, we felt that the process through which poverty and deprivation influence exclusion from school participation deserves further enquiry and systematic investigation. This study is based on detailed fieldwork in different parts of the country applying both qualitative and quantitative tools and techniques. The focus is on understanding schooling participation from the perspective of poor and deprived families and analysing the present policy and interventions in the context of this understanding. Basic livelihood insecurity, adverse socio-political positioning, lack of school accountability and oversimplification of equity issues in policies and delivery modes emerge as critical issues. The commitment to education among poor and deprived families is not uniform and depends upon a number of factors in a broad life situation of vulnerability and powerlessness.