The smell of sunshine on wet grass,the dew drops on a heavy morning rose,the careless flight of parakeets,chasing butterflies in the meadows;as a young child,one truly has a Charter as wide as that of the Wind,to learn,explore and frolic around.
It was only yesterday that I was walking through the market area with rose tinted glasses when my eyes alighted on a young girl running wildly towards the ice cream van. “How adorable”,I thought to myself.
Much as the sight filled me with joy,a sudden sense of awareness swept over me when I saw another young girl scribbling on her little tattered notebook by the sidewalk.
Occasionally noble men and women would stop to teach her a few words and she’d happily want to learn more.
I thought about my childhood when I dreaded my books and wanted to burn them all. The sight of this eager young girl almost broke my heart. She deserved my books much more than I did.
But that fate wasn’t ordained for her.
As a young man or woman,the way we view the world sharply changes like choppy waters slicing through a ravine.While literacy has reached around 99% in countries of Japan, South Korea, USA, UK, Germany, France, etc,
India’s literacy rate is still at 74.04%. While it is largely a gloomy picture,Illiteracy is maximum amonst Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and other backward classes who are not only poor but unaware, unconcerned and unwilling to improve and change their lot.
Illiteracy robs people not only of economic development but also of all benefits of education, reading, writing, etc. condemning them to the darkness of ignorance, poverty and impoverishes them.
Students are the builders of a nation. They can do a lot to eradicate illiteracy. They can spend their spare time and holidays in helping illiterate people to become literate, teaching them the habits of hygiene and sanitation.
A blind person cannot witness the captivating beauty of nature. Similarly, an illiterate person remains remains blindfolded to the charms of the world of learning and knowledge. If and when illiteracy will be removed completely, India will be a new country where 100% people can participate in all programs of economic development.
While India has made rapid strides in universalizing primary education largely as the outcome of sustained interventions under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) and the Mid Day Meal Scheme (MDM),education for some is still a distant reality.
It is important to note that generally enrollment rates are higher than attendance rates. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2009 reports that only about 75 per cent of the children who were enrolled in schools at primary level were found to be attending on a random day.
Grinding poverty and malnutrition often subjects them to a state of irretrievable trauma,often resulting in their untimely death.
According to UNICEF,India contributes to more than 20 per cent of the child deaths in the world. Therefore, the centrality of the discourse on child survival in the larger discussion on well being of children in a country like India cannot be emphasized enough. In India about 1.83 million children die annually before completing their fifth birthday – most of them due to preventable causes.
The combined effects of inadequate sanitation, unsafe water supply and poor personal hygiene are responsible for 88 per cent of childhood deaths from diarrhea.
Poor sanitation and unsafe drinking water cause intestinal worm infections, which lead to malnutrition,anaemia and retarded growth among children.
India has reached the MDG Goal 7 target on improved drinking water sources. However, the piped water as a drinking water source has remained as low as 24 per cent.
Contamination of water on account of arsenic and fluoride are new challenges that India has to cope with and find solutions to.
Children as a whole are subjected to a saga of deprivation.
I’m reminded of this tale by Anees Jung about the children who rummage through the garbage in search of a little rapture.
It was only last week when I was walking around near Hudson lane in Delhi University when my eyes alighted on a young bunch of kids selling balloons.
They walked up to me and built a wall of balloons around me while I was talking to them about their strife. How unfortunate that in a world where balloons are manufactured for children,it is some of these children who end up selling them to others for a little money.
Where are we headed as a Nation?
What are we doing to these little children?
So many acts in place,so many policies being driven around like goodies on a cart and yet every city cries of hunger,every child sighs under the weight of the early baggage.
Truly, if we wish to call ourselves astute,we must not leave this issue unaddressed.
References-UNICEF reports on condition of children in India.