Union Minister of State (Independent Charge), Housing & Urban Affairs, Hardeep Singh Puri said that the government, private sector and civil society organisations have to come together for ensuring safe and secure education to all, particularly the girls. He also said that educating girls is an anchor of all kind of progress. He was speaking as the chief guest at the Consultative Meet of the South Asia Regional Forum for Safe and Secure Education, organised by Right to Education Forum alongwith South Asia Forum at India International Centre Annexe in New Delhi.
Addressing the gathering, Mr. Puri said, “Girls’ education is a pre – requisite of all – round development of a country. India can truly achieve sustainable and inclusive development only through a proper and compatible education system for girls in safe and secure atmosphere. All stake – holders have to join hands and work in tandem to achieve this goal.”
The minister also said that India is a remarkable success in post – colonial reconstruction endeavour. It has made its mark in every field at global platform. It has a robust economy of five trillion dollars with a remarkable growth rate. To continue this success, India has to work more vigorously on gender empowerment, which can be ensured only through girls’ education.
Pointing out several challenges, the minister said that only quality infrastructure, safe & conducive atmosphere and quality curriculum can motivate girls and their family towards education. It’s a hard reality that large number of girls are still deprived of education system. Drop - out rate among girls are very high. There are various reasons which compel girls to leave their education mid –way and safety is the foremost factor. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship missions of “Beti bachao, beti padhao” and “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” are capable of dealing with these pressing issues.
Speaking at the Meet, Eric Falt, Director and UNESCO Representative to Bhutan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka, said that we must end violence against girls, particularly in schools. Only then we can be able to motivate them towards education. “Violence against girls vitiates overall atmosphere including educational one. All policy and programmes will get ineffective because of violence against girls in schools. Mistreatment and sexual harassment in schools have made girls’ life miserable these days.”
“Learning without fear is the need of the hour. All governments should design appropriate policies to end gender based inequality and violence,” Mr. Falt Added.
Earlier, welcoming the guests and participants, Ambarish Rai, National Convenor, Right to Education Forum said, “Educational scenario in India and other South Asian countries is quite similar. There are many important and common areas like the universalisation of school education, adequate resources, equity & inclusion, teacher issues and increasing commercialisation of education which provide us opportunities to work together in South Asia region.”
He also said,
“The RTE Act, which came into effect in 2010 and was the cornerstone for improving the education scenario in the country, however, eight years since its inception is unable to see less than 10% schools complying with its provisions. There still exists a huge vacancy in teacher’s post. Around 5 lakh teachers’ posts are lying vacant. Around 9 lakh teachers are still untrained. Total 8% schools are single teacher schools. Poor infrastructure, issue of timely disbursement of teaching – learning materials and lack of adequate resources are some of the persistent problems that affect the learning environment in Schools.”
“We have recently seen that a large number of schools, more than 2 lakhs indeed, are being shut down in the name of rationalization and private entities are coming in education space leading to the mushrooming of low cost for-profit private schools,” Mr. Rai added.
Consisted of four different sessions, the Meet discussed variety of issues. In the first session, the Meet analyzed the journey and achievements of the South Asia Forum in India and Nepal. Kumar Bhattarai, Chairperson, National Campaign for Education, Nepal and Steering Committee Member, South Asia Regional Forum on Safe and Secure Education and Radhika Alkazi, Steering Committee Member, South Asia Regional Forum on Safe and Secure Education conducted this analysis. Prof. Muchkund Dubey, former Foreign Secretary and President, Council for Social Development chaired this session.
In the second session, issues, challenges and efforts in safe and secure education was discussed. Eminent dignitaries like Aminulhaq Mayel, Deputy Director of Programmes ( Programme Development), Swedish Committee of Afghanistan, Papia Ferdousei, Programme Manager, BRAC Education Program, Bangladesh, Alka Singh, Head – Policy and Advocacy, Save the Children, India participated in this session. K. Zehra Arshad, National Coordinator, Pakistan Coalition for Education, Pakistan participated in this session through a video message. Prof. Venita Kaul, Professor Emeritus Education, Ambedkar University Delhi and Steering Committee Member, South Asia Regional Forum on Safe and Secure Education chaired this session.
Voices of Regional Networks also were heard in third session, chaired by Amitabh Behar, CEO, Oxfam India. Eminent personalities like Dr Colin Gonsalves, founder, Human Rights Law Network and senior advocate, Supreme Court of India participated in this session and elaborated upon the legal route to ensure implementation of the RTE Act, 2009 as well as safe & secure educational environment.
The fourth session, chaired by Anjela Taneja, Technical Director – Education, CARE INDIA and Steering Committee Member, South Asia Regional Forum on Safe and Secure Education, discussed various strategies to strengthen the Regional Forum.