A Failure to Integrate: Barriers to Quality Primary Education for Rural Children in the Narayankhed Subdivision of the Medak District in Andhra Pradesh, India

The rural populations of India suffer from a lack of educational quality and access. While populations in these areas are often identified marginalized groups (SC and ST), this specification does not affect the education of these populations so much as their geographical location. Research in this area of study is heavily biased towards quantitative data due to its ability to draw broad conclusions. Unfortunately, quantitative data does not always reflect the realities for individuals suffering from a lack of access to education. Qualitative research for this study has identified the major educational hurdles for rural populations as enrollment, retention, and advancement and these are most often affected by infrastructure, quality of education, and linguistic barriers respectively. Individual case studies serve to exemplify the barriers identified within this study. Unfortunately, while UNICEF has a strong presence in India, the focus of their resources is more in line with the Millennium Development Goals than with the concerns and needs of the populations in rural India. The Indian government’s newly passed RTE is a step in the right direction but it too fails to identify solutions to concerns raised by rural populations. Names have been changed.

In order to follow this article thoroughly, it is best to be able to reference the many acronyms with this table.

List of Acronyms
  • CRC…………….Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • DEO…………….District Education Officer
  • ELL…………….English Language Learners
  • FGD…………….Focus Group Discussion
  • GDP…………….Gross Domestic Product
  • HRD…………….Human Resource Development
  • KGBV………….Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya
  • MDG…………….Millennium Development Goals
  • MEO…………….Mandal Education Officer
  • MRO…………….Mandal Resource Person
  • RTE…………….Right to Education
  • SC……………….Scheduled Caste
  • ST……………….Scheduled Tribe
  • SSA…………….Sarva Shikshya Abhiyan
  • UEE…………….Universal Elementary Education
  • UNICEF…….United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund
  • US……………….United States

Universal elementary education (UEE), while a popular international focus, remains a difficult goal to achieve. The UN has created a list of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that are popularly known as a roadmap for governments attempting to lift their people out of poverty. In reality, the MDGs are just a basic sketch of what progress might look like. The MDG related to UEE seeks to ensure that both boys and girls are able to complete a full course of primary school and lists as its indicators of progress: net enrollment rates, proportion of students who start grade one and finish primary school, and the literacy rates of 15-24 year olds.

The indicators, while commendable, do not lay a foundation for true equality in education. What is lacking is any indicator addressing quality in the education received. Net enrollment rates may seem to be a good indicator of educational progress- until it is realized that children who enroll may or may not actually show up to school 1). The second indicator seems to address retention of students- except that it does not specify what grade should signify the “end” of primary school, allowing for the possibility of a wide interpretation of what a full course of primary school actually is 2). The last indicator, which addresses the literacy rates of the 15-24 year old group, again fails to define the key term, “literate”- allowing once again for the possibility of wide interpretation 3). It is not that the UN ignores UEE, but that it does not account for vast inequalities- inequalities that may affect marginalized children the world over as they struggle to attain a quality education.

In India, the need for UEE has been addressed in various official government documents including the Indian Constitution 4)) and the recent Right to Education Act (RTE) 5)). While both of these sources acknowledge the need of all children to attend school, the cultural, linguistic and social make-up of India make this goal a lofty challenge. The current education system is linguistically diverse to say the least. Most children from non-poor families in India attend private, English medium school while government schools are usually taught in the official language of the state it is located in with some exceptions allowing for mother tongue instruction. Not surprisingly, it is those children labeled as “poor” or from rural areas that cannot afford or obtain access to the English-Medium private schools. This has created a situation where government schools fill in the gap for poor students rather than setting the bar for education in India.

Compounding educational challenges in India is the multitude of language and groups in India as well as a prevalent discriminatory attitude towards poorer sections of Indian society. While it is well known that the Indian caste system has been outlawed since independence, old habits die hard and, just as in most areas of the world, the poor bear a disproportionate brunt of inequality- especially in education.

In addition to acknowledging the barriers that marginalized Indians identify as central to a lack of educational attainment for their communities, it is a goal of this study to address the disconnect between governmental and UN policies and the educational reality in rural communities. Neither the Indian government nor UNICEF is adequately addressing the educational barriers facing rural children. This disconnect is due in large part to a lack of qualitative data collection in communities targeted for intervention and attention by these bodies possibly attributed to a lack of interest in engaging these communities in policy discussions.


The purpose of this study was to ascertain the barriers to education for rural children. Many, but not all, of these children belong to the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) groups as defined by the Indian government 6). Secondary was a desire to explore whether current government, UN and NGO interventions are focusing on those barriers identified by community members. In order to obtain a fair view of the current situation in Narayankhed, data was collected from a variety of stakeholder categories.

Most education researchers choose to utilize quantitative data to support their hypothesis and draw conclusions. While this method allows for a large sampling of information, it does not allow for the vast array of variables that may influence the numbers. In the instance of this study, quantitative data would have told a very one-dimensional story. For example, many parental respondents initially said their children had no problems understanding their lessons in a language other than their own while, in reality, their children offered opposing views and exhibited signs of utter confusion when asked questions in their daily medium of instruction. In short, the children can recite lessons in a second language but cannot synthesize unique responses to spontaneous questions asked in that same language 7).

In this case, the problem with utilizing quantitative data is multi-faceted. First, parents may choose the “best” answer when not allowed to expand on their responses. A simple yes or no does not truly represent the reality of the challenge. Second, many researchers who rely on quantitative data are drawing their data from governmental sources. Since governmental surveys are generally geared towards adults, children’s responses would not even necessarily be included in the numbers quoted. Third, Seeing as many parents are not able to communicate with their children’s teachers due to a language barrier, they are often unclear as to the actual progress their children are making in school 8).

It is due to this inability of quantitative data to allow for intricacies and variations that a qualitative approach was used as the basis for this study. While the qualitative approach limited the respondent size, it allowed a much more detailed glimpse into the challenges facing our respondents. It also allowed for an observation of the barriers as they occurred naturally rather than through a governmental or outside organization’s lens. Among other benefits, the use of qualitative data allowed for the inclusion of: various and often neglected respondent groups, including children; follow up questions; and explanations of responses. This has provided the study with a rounded sense of the barriers facing rural students in Narayankhed. Additionally, speaking directly to our respondents allowed for a comparison against the focuses of the government, UNICEF and NGOs in the area to assess the appropriateness of their aims and goals.

Data collection methods for this study included private interviews, group interviews, focus group discussions and questionnaires. Our questionnaire was developed as a direct result of responses from our first round of field research and was employed in our second round only. All effort was made to talk to a wide spectrum of stakeholders though, in the end, it was the parents and children that the findings in this paper are most substantially based on. Respondents included children, parents, teachers, NGO staff, and government officials. Further subcategories were employed to ensure a wide range of respondents. For example, the category “children” was subdivided into “school age- in school”, school age- out of school”, “school age- never attended school”, and “children-finished school”. In all, 126 respondents participated in providing information.

The respondents were interviewed within Kangti and Manoor Mandals in the Narayankhed subdivision of the Medak district in Andhra Pradesh. Villages and tandas visited within these mandals were chosen based on official literacy rates with an effort being made to include those with both the lowest and the highest literacy rates 9). Translators were employed to translate from the local languages to English. Interviews and discussions were recorded when possible and allowed for further translation verification. Whenever possible, and allowing for translation, this study employs the exact responses of the participants. However, when direct observation contradicts the statements made, this has been indicated.

All data for this study was collected during an internship with UNICEF-India. While a team of four interns was originally employed to conduct this research, the findings included in this paper do not necessarily reflect the findings included in the final report submitted to UNICEF and instead reflect independent conclusions drawn from the data collected. The chosen area of Narayankhed, Andhra Pradesh was chosen by UNICEF due to its persistently low literacy rates 10). While the assigned topic was “Barriers to Education for ST and SC Populations with a Special Focus on Work and Migration”, our ethnographic approach allowed us to discover that work and migration were not the main barriers to education; nor were ST and SC populations the only groups affected. The community members of the rural area of Narayankhed were struggling with barriers to their children’s education regardless if caste or tribe affiliation.

Literature Review

The literature surrounding this study is simultaneously overwhelming and uninspiring. Overwhelming because the topic lends itself to research from a myriad of sources including educators, social scientists, policy makers and human rights activists. Uninspiring because each of these group of researchers seems to employ the same one-dimensional quantitative approach to their explorations. While these studies may produce conclusions that rely on large samples of respondents, the conclusions seem superficial and, as evidenced in this study, unrelated to the true concerns of those they claim to be speaking for.

The documents that serve as a basis for the claim to education as a human right include the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN created Millennium Development Goals. The Convention on the Rights of the Child established basic primary education as a basic human right for the world’s children 11). The Millennium Development Goals reiterated this commitment by making Goal #2: “Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling” 12). The specification of education for both boys and girls shows a clear commitment of equitable education based on gender. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights further clarifies the commitment to equitable education by stating, “…higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” 13) While this article refers specifically to higher education, the clear argument that merit cannot be established in the absence of quality primary and secondary education is implied. There is also ample argument to be made that many other rights as defined in the Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention the Rights of the Child are directly related to the attainment of quality and equitable education 14).

Due to the nature of human rights, they are guaranteed to all members of society without discrimination. Unfortunately, those who have a history of marginalization within society often suffer the same fate when it comes to the right to education. Marginalized groups in India include Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), based on historical discrimination and rural populations due specifically to their isolation and distance from services offered in the cities. While the Indian Constitution bans all forms of discrimination by the state 15), the declaration of non-discrimination is different than the reality marginalized groups face.

Various authors have sought to explore the reasons for and possible solutions to the educational marginalization of specific groups in Indian society. Articles such as “Regional Returns to Education, Child Labor and Schooling in India” 16) seek to utilize quantitative data explain links between the needs of the poor and a lapse in educational attainment without allowing for the “invisible children” of marginalized groups. These “invisible children” lack inclusion in official numbers due to their lack of birth certificates and registration as official citizens. Not allowing for this fact leads Chambargwala to draw conclusions on labor that seem to blame the victim- in this case, the poor.

The main issue in using qualitative data alone to research this particular subject is that factors cannot be considered as interconnected, nor can identified barriers be “fact-checked” to see if marginalized groups truly feel that these barriers are reality. “The Challenge of Universal Elementary Education in Rural India: Can Adult Literacy Play a Role?” 17) is one such example. While adult literacy may play a role in advancing UEE, the qualitative data for this paper challenges Chudgar’s focus and shows that parents who fall into both the literate and illiterate categories wish to send their children to school. This focus on adult literacy utilizes official quantitative data in an arbitrary manner and draws focus away from the more important issues of infrastructure, quality, and linguistic barriers. “School Determinants in Rural India” 18) presents similar research challenges and draws ridiculous conclusions based solely on quantitative data 19).

At times, quantitative studies do hit on areas of concern for the communities they claim to speak for. “Para-Teacher Scheme and Quality Education for all in India: Policy Perspectives and Challenges for School Effectiveness” 20) speaks to a very real concern of rural parents- the quality of education their children receive. Unfortunately, Pandey does not back up his findings with any direct claims from those he studied. Similarly, “How Free is Free Primary Education in India” 21) hits on the very real concern of costs associated with education. However, Tilak fails to acknowledge or prioritize those factors of most concern to marginalized families, mainly due to his lack of qualitative exploration of the subject.

“Multilingual Language Policy and School Linguistic Practice: Globalization and English- Language Teaching in India, Singapore, and South Africa” 22) draws conclusions from both qualitative and quantitative data. This resource is of particular use for the chosen topic- integration of rural students- because the authors are exploring a key area identified by parents as a main factor in keeping their children out of school. The main exploration of “Multilingual Language Policy and School Linguistic Practice…” is the intertwined effect of globalization and English medium instruction in schools and their combined role in keeping the third world relatively “below” the developed world. The authors utilize vignettes to illustrate examples of the challenges of English medium instruction in non-English speaking countries. What is lacking, for purposes of this paper, is a dialogue with parents. While this article does illustrate many of the challenges of English medium instruction, it does not qualitatively address the link to school non-attendance. It does, however, illustrate a clear challenge also identified by parents interviewed for this paper.

What the current, popular quantitative studies do not incorporate is the voice of the children and families they claim to be speaking for. The ability and willingness of quantitative researchers in this area to correlate numbers in any number of ways presents a grave challenge when discussing possible solutions to the failure to integrate rural children into the mainstream educational system. Solutions presented and enacted without the input of the communities affected have little chance of success.

This area of research requires at least a partially qualitative approach to ascertain whether the proposed challenges actually match those identified by marginalized parents and children. Unfortunately, qualitative based data is not currently as popular as quantitative data when discussing the challenges of universal education for all. Conclusions identified as being drawn based on conversations with children and parents is even less popular. It is for this reason that the presented study relies heavily on the words of rural populations themselves.

The areas of infrastructure, quality of education, and linguistic barriers have been identified in this paper as major barriers based solely on the statements of rural families struggling to obtain adequate educations for their children.

Infrastructure as a Barrier to Enrollment

While many complaints were raised as reasons for delaying or failing to enroll children in school, a major concern raised in every community visited was infrastructure. Infrastructure, for purposes of this study refers to the physical school building and the provisions within that school building as well as external infrastructural components such as paved roads and accessible transportation.

Poor quality of school buildings is a major issues in rural India. Often attributed to a low enrollment rate, students reported and were witnessed to be sitting in classrooms that housed several grade levels simultaneously, with one teacher for all grade levels. In addition, none of the schools we visited had proper toilet facilities or easily accessible drinking water. While government officials may blame a lack of students on their reluctance to expand or add more schools, we found evidence of the opposite. Parents in every community expressed a desire to see their children’s schools be fixed so as to be in proper functioning order. In fact, in one interview with the MEO of Manoor Mandal we were introduced to the struggle he faces in acquiring the required number of schools for the children in his designated area. He explained that although he has requested five more high schools be built for the number of high school age children in his mandal, the government has confirmed their intent to build only one. He stated “Children enrollment is decreasing every passing day because of the low number of high schools.” 23)

Where schools do exist, provisions within the schools were similar in every community visited and left much to be desired. In Pathunayak village, children learn lessons while seated on a gravel floor. In Raipalle, students have benches to sit on but no desks. In Dhanwar, the youngest students have class on the front porch of the school building. Every school suffered from a lack of textbooks and school supplies. Every student interviewed said that one of their biggest desires was for proper toilet facilities and for a solution to their water problems. Figure 1 is a graphical representation of the shortage of functioning toilet facilities in school 24) 25)

External infrastructure also plays a large role in the enrollment of children in school. Many villages reported having to send their children over long distances to school 26). This presents a major problem for all ages of children. Parents are often reluctant to send young children to walk to school by themselves and often do not have the ability to bring their children themselves. A lack of paved roads in many rural communities means that transportation is not readily accessible. In communities where transportation is accessible, this “hidden cost” is often cost-prohibitive and leads to non-enrollment or selective enrollment of some children in a family 27).

Older children also face problems when confronted with external infrastructural problems. Unlike primary schools, there is no mandate on how far or close secondary schools should be to a community. Therefore, many tanda students are forced to travel to the nearest village- at minimum- in order to continue their education 28). For those children who do not wish to travel everyday, there are hostel options in the surrounding areas. They often offer free room and board to qualifying students, However, these hostels are ridden with challenges. Many only accept students who are identified as SC or ST, which means not every child in a tanda or village may qualify. This leads to an even lower number of students in home communities needing schools which lends the government its argument of not having the means to build schools for only a few students. Hostels are also often seen through a discriminatory lens with many parents refusing to send their children to facilities seen as being for “ST only”- in other words, low class 29).

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, these hostels are offered as an only option to many poor, rural families wishing to further their children’s education. But what is not considered is the forced separation from the child’s family and community when no other option is given. This disregard for the rights of a child to be raised by their parents and for a parent to participate in their child’s education is a major disadvantage of these hostel facilities and often leads to non-enrollment, delayed enrollment, or selective enrollment for parents interviewed 30).

Case Study Of Sujata

(Interview conducted June 21, 2010 in Enakpallie Village.)

Sujata is a child of unknown age who resides in Enakpallie village. She does not have a birth certificate and her parents guess that she is eleven. Her development and size indicate that she is a few years older than that leading to an estimate of thirteen years. Sujata has only attended school for a short time when she was about five and has since spent her days helping her mother and sister- in- law around the house.

Sujata lives with her father, mother, brother and his family. Her two sisters have married and moved out of the paternal family home. Sujata was extremely shy throughout the interview and often turned to her mother to answer questions for her.

Sujata and her parents state that there was no school building until recently. Despite this fact, they did enroll Sujata in school when she was five years old. Sujata’s mother states that a lack of proper roads meant that teachers did not show up regularly. While she does not blame the teachers, this lack of attendance led her to view school as a waste of time for her daughter and they soon pulled her out.

Sujata and her parents stated that newly built roads mean that the primary school teachers in the village now come fairly regularly for the primary school children. Parvati’s young nephew attends the village primary school regularly. Unfortunately, there are no provisions in the village for grades five through ten. Sujata’s family does not wish to send their daughter out of their village for schooling but expressed a desire to see schools developed in their community so that older students could stay in the community and study, which would also lead to less expenditure for families.

Minimally improved infrastructure has come too late for Sujata. Due to the fact that Sujata has not been to school since she was five, her parents do not feel it is appropriate to place her in a class with “babies”. They feel they have missed the opportunity to educate Sujata and are now making plans to get her married.

Case Study Of Thouranayak Tanda

( Visit and Interview conducted June 19, 2010 in Thouranayak Tanda. )

Thouranayak Tanda is a smaller community approximately three kilometers away from the closest village of Enakpallie. Thouranayak is home to approximately 50 families composing 20 households. Most have young children. There is no primary school in Thouranayak despite the government order to provide a primary school within one kilometer of all communities. All Thouranayak children must walk three kilometers each way to school daily over treacherous terrain or choose to move away from their families and stay in hostels in Narayanakhed if they wish to go to school. Both of these options present difficulties for young children wishing to attend school. The only other option is to not enroll in school at all.

The mothers in the tanda who spoke with us expressed great concern over sending their young children to school in Enakpallie- the location of the closest primary school. Their duties at home prevent them from walking their children to school everyday. Many choose not to enroll their children at all until they are older for safety reasons. Not only is the walk long and unprotected, but any rain causes the path to become muddy, flooded and dangerous. Every mother stated a desire for their children to be educated and a frustration that the government has not provided their children with a school that is accessible for all children.

One mother in Enakpallie, Parvati, had a particularly difficult story. She has five young daughters who she now raises on her own. Her husband of several years left her recently to marry another woman and is now living in Hyderabad. Her oldest daughter was studying in Hyderabad near her father until he decided he did not wish to support her studies any longer and sent her back to the tanda. While she recognizes and desires the benefits of education for her daughters, Parvati has no way of getting her children to school everyday. She is now the sole provider in her home and cannot spare the several hours a day it would take to walk her children back and forth to school. Until a school is erected in her tanda or a safer route is ensured for her young daughters, Parvati has no choice but to keep her children home and out of school.

While Parvati’s story is an extreme scenario, all mothers in the Thouranayak acknowledged making the same choice as Parvati- to keep their youngest children home and out of school rather than put them in danger on the walk to school. If a primary school were erected in Thouranayak, this very basic concern would be eliminated.

Why it Matters

Poor infrastructure can have devastating effects on school enrollment for rural children. It is not, as often assumed by the outside world, a case of preferring to send a child to work that leads families to keep their children out of school- it is a matter of practicality that leads to child labor rather than schooling in many families. When faced with sending a child to a school that lacks proper facilities and provisions- or in some cases, simply does not exist- what struggling family would choose to lose the potential wages of that child? 31) It is not a preference, it is basic common sense.

While UNICEF spends resources and time focusing on the right to basic education for every child, there is less focus on the infrastructural challenges of this mandate. Resources must be allocated to assisting in the development of proper roads, transportation and school buildings in addition to the current focus of education for parents on the rights and laws associated with primary education.

The Indian government itself is struggling to match its mandates with implementation. For example, while the maximum distance of primary schools from a community has been placed at one kilometer by several sources including the SSA and the recent RTE Act, there is still a reluctance to build schools in areas of low student numbers 32). This is an impossible enigma since in order to enroll, parents must have a school to enroll their children in.

Until infrastructure is improved to a satisfactory level, not only will rural children in India be denied an equitable education- there will also be only nominal and temporary gains in enrollment for rural populations.

Educational/ Teacher Quality as a Barrier to Retention

In cases where children have the ability to enroll in schools, educational and teacher quality can have a major impact on the retention of those students. Retention is commonly understood to be the continuing enrollment of current students from one year to the next. Given the high rate of dropouts before the completion of a full course of schooling for the rural Narayankhed area, retention is an area that deserves focus.

Educational and teacher quality can be lacking for a variety of reasons. First, teachers often do not show up regularly when assigned to rural communities. This was reported by respondents to be attributed to two main issues. To begin with, there are distinct drawbacks to being assigned to teach in rural villages and tandas. The cost and time involved in the transportation to and from work can be prohibitive for teachers who are on a fixed income 33). Because the government does not consider distance in its assignments, teachers in rural areas are often traveling great distances to get to their work. The difficulty of the commute was identified in all villages and tandas as a main reason for teacher absence.

The second factor in teacher non-attendance is a discriminatory attitude towards rural students. Even with teachers who were present for our visits, there were negative comments about rural students 34). The view that these students may not be as capable as their urban counterparts can have a negative effect on a teachers’ drive to put in extra effort to show up for school as well as on a child’s motivation to work hard.

Second, when teachers do show up, they are often unable to communicate with families at best and with their own students at worst. This is due to the fact that government teachers are expected to teach in Telugu medium while most rural students speak another language as their first language 35). When confronted with a classroom and community that speak a different language, educational quality gives way to language barriers and struggles.

Third, many rural areas rely heavily on vidya volunteers- the Indian equivalent to American para-professionals. While vidya volunteers can be valuable as classroom support and translators between teacher and student and teacher and family, these vidyas are rarely used in such an appropriate manner. Instead, vidyas often substitute as trained government teachers when teachers do not show up or have not yet been assigned to a school. Diminished educational quality becomes a problem in these situations because vidya volunteers are untrained and have often not completed a full course of schooling themselves 36).

Fourth, the government mandated practice of automatic promotion has an effect on both educational and teacher quality. As it pertains to educational quality, the link is clear. The fact that all students are promoted regardless of academic achievement leads to student apathy as well as classrooms filled with students of vastly different capabilities. Not only are teachers teaching multiple grades within one classroom, they are also required to sub-group each class into “A”, “B”, and “C” with “C” being the students struggling the most. Since teachers can only spread themselves so thin, they are required to sit “C” students between students of the other two groups in the hopes those doing well will help those who are struggling. As an added consequence, “A” students are often left to their own devices since they are seen as not needing as much teacher attention 37). The result is a class full of students who are all missing out on the full attention they deserve.

Unfortunately, this practice of automatic promotion has a negative impact on teacher attitude as well. Knowing that students must be promoted regardless of their intellect or efforts, teachers face their own apathy. There is no incentive for teachers to work harder to impart knowledge when their students are pushed on to the next grade whether they grasp the material or not.

Lastly, the curriculum being provided to rural children is often irrelevant to their lives and aspirations. There is no creativity employed when students do not grasp concepts outside of their familiarity zone. In the United States the bias of state tests against urban youth has long been documented 38). In India, this concept can be applied in reverse. It is rural children who struggle with the wording and context of textbooks written for students with a very different background and environment. The lack of choice and exposure to differing academic areas compounds this problem by creating an educational system that rural students feel was not designed for them. The current courses in the schools visited generally include Telugu, Math, Science, Hindi, and Social Science with English being introduced at varying grades- if at all. None of the students reported taking Art, Music, Technology or Health and only one school visited in Kangti village claimed to offer the older students a Physical Education class 39). While the argument might be made that these classes are “extras”, in an environment that values physical ability such as these rural farming areas, physical education is as necessary as math. The same can be said of art and music in these areas where culture is essential and of health in these areas where medical care is hard to come by. Adding these layers of education would go a long way in adding a sense of belonging and ownership to rural students in their education.

Case Study- Sudesh

(The case study is drawn from interviews conducted simultaneously with seven-year-old Sudesh and Swagato, an adult male in the village. Interviews conducted on July 13, 2010 in Vachu Tanda. )

Sudesh is a seven-year-old boy enrolled in the first grade. He is the only child of his parents. The family lives in Vachu tanda where Sudesh has recently been enrolled in the local primary school. Sudesh’s parents waited to enroll him in school because last year he broke his leg and his parents worried about his safety at school with such an injury. At home Sudesh speaks Lambadi with his parents. At school, he is supposed to be taught in Telugu though, luckily, the assigned teacher is able to communicate with the students in Lambadi.

Sudesh's teacher, Sammit, does not come to school regularly. The approximately forty students enrolled in the school go without classes when Sammit doesn’t come. Despite a desire to be involved in the schooling of their children, the parents in Sudesh’s village expressed their confusion over their role since the teacher doesn’t seem to take his role very seriously. At one point, Swagato, a parent in the village expressed his frustration with the school by stating “Why will we send students to school if [the] teacher doesn’t come? They still don’t know their alphabets! I don’t know anything that is happening in the school if there is no proper teacher. What is our role?”

When asked about school, Sudesh stated that before he started school, he was very excited. His excitement faded when he realized that his teacher hardly shows up to teach class. He has only had chance to sit through a Telugu class. He had not had classes in any other subject at the time of this interview. His other main complaints were that his school has no water and no playground. Despite his young age, Sudesh is very aware that the law says his school is supposed to have a teacher and a playground 40).

Sudesh's interest in school has suffered greatly due to the lack of quality. His teacher’s constant absence and the lack of concern from officials have disillusioned him already. He expressed no desire to continue in his studies. When asked if he had any questions to ask me, his only question was “Why are you here? No one ever comes here.”

Sudesh’s dwindling interest in school coupled with the frustration felt by the parents of the community has led to a lack of educational pursuit. The fifth grade is generally the highest education attained by students in this tanda. Swagato echoed Sudesh’s sentiments stating that no one cares to come and see what is going on with this school and this teacher, “No one does anything. If there are no teachers, we will keep them [the children] with the elders.”

The lack of teachers combined with the mandated automatic promotion practice means that even if a student like Sudesh wanted to continue their education, they would lack all ability to do so.

Case Study- Government Primary School, Kangti Village

(Interview mainly included responses from the headmaster and one teacher. Other teachers commented intermittently. Interview conducted July 16, 2010 in Kangti Village.)

The primary school in Kangti is located in the center of the village. Surrounded by a compound wall and staffed by passionate and dedicated teachers, the school represents an exception to almost every rule for rural primary schools.

While the medium of instruction is Telugu, the headmaster- Nitin- is from Kangti and employs his mastery of many languages to communicate with the parents in the village. Nitin encourages his teachers to speak openly about their concerns and views on everything from education to politics to the rights of children. According to his staff, this encouragement to speak openly and without fear of consequence is what has led to a sense of commitment and community between the teachers. The teachers at this school voluntarily use their own funds on a regular basis to provide the supplies their students need to succeed- supplied such as notebooks and pencils. In addition to the monthly parents meetings this school holds, teachers visit the homes of absent students to ensure they do not fall behind and to encourage them to return as soon as possible. Despite this extra work, none of the teachers desires to leave this village school despite a possible government order to do so. In fact, despite the fact that all but one teacher has been given an official order of transfer, all the teachers were present when we made our unannounced visit, conducting classes 41)

Despite a lack of governmental support and allocated resources, Nitin has managed to create a school that his students are excited to attend. Primary school students are given regular physical education and English classes as a supplement to their core courses of Telugu, Hindi, Science, Social Studies and Math. Grades six through ten are offered for half of the day and include physical education, Computers and Environmental Studies in addition to their core courses. Nitin expressed his desire to add classes such as art, drama, dance, music and cultural studies in the future- classes he knows other schools offer.

Nitin ensures that his students are safe from all harm on a daily basis. He does not permit any form of physical punishment in his school and claims he would discipline any teacher who hurt a student. He has never had this problem.

Despite the great strides Nitin and his staff have made in creating a school the community can be proud of, the school faces daily obstacles just to operate. The primary school shares its space with both a community college that offers night classes and a part-time high school. During the day, the desks utilized by the college sit empty- the primary school is not permitted to use them. The classrooms the college utilizes are not occupied during the day but Nitin is not permitted to place classes there- even if he did have enough teachers to spread out. Despite his students’ inability to purchase the government required uniforms or necessary school supplies, he receives no extra support from the government. He often seeks donors to supplement the donations from his staff to purchase the necessary materials and uniforms for his students.

Nitin also struggles to create an educationally challenging environment given the restraints placed by the government. While all students are passed automatically, there is a recommendation of 35% comprehension for promotion. Nitin follows this law but expressed his dismay at such a low bar being set for his students- especially given his view that his students are capable of far more than a 35% comprehension average. The lack of assigned teachers to his school only worsens the challenge of educationally challenging each student.

The input from Nitin’s staff echoed many of Nitin’s concerns. Ajit, the school’s second grade teacher, discussed the difficulty of teaching seventy- five wiggly young students in one hot, crowded room. His greatest concern in this situation is his inability to focus on struggling and accelerated students. He has been told to group students into “A”. “B”, and “C” groups and allow the A and B groups to help the C group. In his opinion this has led to his teaching to the middle that serves none of his students. His A group is bored, his B group is not being asked to reach further, and his C group is still struggling. Ajit has employed his own creative methods and feels that they work. However, when government officials visit his class, he is told every time to return to the A,B, C system without any good reason given.

Ajit, like Nitin, feels his government school educated students are bright- at least as bright as any private school class. His commitment to their capabilities is also partly a reflection of his own background as a government school student. Ajit truly believes that each of his students has the capability to go on in their studies but feels their quality of education is suffering due to poor governmental policies. He blames a certain level of discrimination against village and tanda students and points to the vast difference in resources offered to rural students who depend on government schools vs. those students who are able to choose a private school to attend. Ajit makes a valid point in stating the inherent discrimination since it is only the poor students of India that rely on government schools. As Ajit said, “For the Government to give my students less is to give poor people less. It is discrimination. No one who is not poor goes to these schools. It is not a mistake that my students get less. Who will argue?” 42)

Nitin, Ajit, and the rest of the staff have committed themselves to a school that encourages and prepares students to continue their studies. However, the lack of teachers and resources has led to a severe lacking in educational quality, no matter how hard they work. While they encourage every student to continue on in their studies, their inability to provide the educational quality they wish to means that this is not always possible. “This school could reach the number one position if this school is given what other students in private and convent schools are given.” 43)

Why it Matters

Parents of the students interviewed expressed displeasure with the quality of education being offered to their children. While many of these parents never attended school or only attended for a short period, they value quality education for their children. We found no evidence of the common misconception that poor people do not value education simply because they are poor and never attended school themselves. Students and families simply do not want to waste their time and hard-earned resources on a venture that lacks quality. When a lack of quality is seen, students and families stop fighting to pursue education. This concept is not unique to poor populations.

Besides the obvious barriers to student retention that accompany a lack of quality teachers and instruction, there is also the very real resentment that students and families begin to feel as they view a lack of quality as being synonymous with discrimination based on their class status and geographical location.

In order for retention rates to rise in the rural areas, the discrepancy in teacher and educational quality must be addressed by the government of India, as well as other stakeholders- including UNICEF. While UNICEF, and specifically UNICEF-India, strongly advocates for the MDG of compulsory and free primary education for all children, they do not focus adequately on the problems a lack of teacher and educational quality present in the retention of students. While one of the indicators of this MGD is the “proportion of pupils starting grade one who reach the last grade of primary [school]” 44) there is no indicator for the quality of the primary education being offered “universally” 45). Considering this, “universal” seems an inappropriate term since the differing quality leads directly to a lack of educational attainment in those who utilize government schools- the poor.

Language as a Barrier to Advancement

The difficulties faced by students when it comes to language were repeated by all categories of respondents. These difficulties manifest in a number of ways. All manifestations inherently bring barriers to the advancement of a child’s education.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child identifies education and the right to learn and use the language of their family as basic human rights 46). The RTE also specifies the “medium of instruction shall, as far as practicable, be in child’s mother tongue” 47). However, the vast linguistic diversity in the Indian sub-continent makes the goal of mother tongue instruction an extremely difficult task to achieve.

The 2001 Indian census cites twenty- two official languages in India. There are one hundred and twenty two scheduled and non-scheduled languages tracked from the census data 48). While the constitution of India shows Hindi as the official language of India as a whole, English serves as a secondary official language and each state in India has its own established official language 49). These official state languages are rarely the language of the rural populations. In Andhra Pradesh, the state in which this study was conducted, Telugu serves as the official state language while the population interviewed speaks a variety of languages including Kannada, Lambadi, Hindi, Murathi, and Urdu. Adding to the difficulty in the Narayankhed area is the fact that this area closely borders the state of Karnataka, meaning many people must speak Kannada, Karnataka’s official language, so as to interact with their neighbors and conduct business.

All students interviewed for this study who reported speaking a language other than Telugu at home also reported being taught in a language other than their mother tongue. Chart 2 50) shows the languages spoken at home versus the medium of instruction in the classroom. Most of these children stated that they were having or have had difficulty understanding lessons due to the language barrier. Many expressed a desire for English medium instruction since they recognize the inherent benefits of English acquisition. One such benefit, simply having the option to continue on to secondary school and beyond, becomes impossible when confronted with the reality of the “medium of instruction barrier”.

This lack of continued mobility in education is a consequence of the language barrier that seems to be overlooked by UNICEF- India. Rural children who speak minority languages often have few choices when it comes to school enrollment. As students get older, their choices get slimmer- especially when language is factored in. A child taught solely in a second language such as Telugu is dependent upon a finding a university that conducts its classes in Telugu and also happens to provide the major the student desires. Even a primary school student who is who is taught in their minority mother tongue will eventually struggle. A lack of consistency in medium of instruction- even between schools serving the same community- means that a child taught in her mother tongue for primary school may suddenly find themselves thrown into a new language environment when they outgrow their primary school 51). Their only option is to learn the language quickly so as not to fall behind, or drop out of school altogether.

Despite these facts, UNICEF-India has not released any recent reports addressing this issue 52). This omission raises questions about UNICEF’s educational focus. It is well known that UNICEF advocates for universal primary education and supports and promotes the MDGs. While universal and compulsory education is worthy of attention, it must be asked- what happens next? Does a course of primary education really provide equitable opportunity to all children? And if not, how does a severe language barrier serve to further prevent marginalized groups from educational achievement? These are areas that UNICEF-India has thus far failed to pay adequate attention.

In addition to the obvious barriers that language can present, there is also a strong discriminatory element that is perpetuated when language is a factor. The false concept that rural children are not as capable as their urban counterparts becomes its own self- fulfilling prophecy when students from rural areas are thrust into educational settings without the necessary language. They are then seen as incapable and unworthy of educational attention due solely to their lack of fluency in the language of Indian academia- English. This self-fulfilling prophecy then perpetuates the discriminatory cycle of a non-focus on the education of rural children.

Case Study- Niyati

(This case study is based on two interviews. In the first, we interviewed Niyati and her mother with both of Niyatii’s siblings present but not participating. In the second, we interviewed Niyatii’s mother and father as well as her 5 year old sister Priti. We then traveled to Boratha Village on the same day to interview Niyati, her aunt and Niyati’s new teacher.)

Niyati is an intelligent eight- year- old child whose family is new to Dhanwar Village. She attends the government school in Dhanwar. Despite Niyati’s native tongue of Kannada and her previous one year of attendance at an English medium school, her current classes are all taught in Telugu. The school lacks proper toilet facilities and running drinking water. Niyati reported sitting in class with several grade levels in one classroom. Our first interview was one week into the start of classes in June. Nyati’s mother reported moving to Dhanwar due to a land dispute in their former village.

Throughout our interview, Niyati was engaged and fully capable of holding an adult level conversation. She was aware that she should answer looking at the person who asked the question- even when that person did not speak her language. This was striking since no other child respondent and most of the adults were unsure how to handle this unique situation. Niyati spent much of the interview time with her mother meticulously copying her Telugu, English and math lessons into my notebook. When asked to copy progressively harder drawings, she did so with ease.

When Niyati was asked what she would like to be when she grows up, she replied a doctor. Were she not a rural child, her dreams might not seem so big. Niyati’s mother expressed great distress over the fact that she knows Niyati may not be able to become what she wants simply because they cannot afford to send Niyati to an English medium school. The fact that Niyati happened to be born into a rural area means that she must attend the inadequate Telugu medium school in her village. Unfortunately for Niyati, her dreams of becoming a doctor may hinge on her parents’ inability to pay for an English medium school since English medium greatly increases the options for educational attainment and career options in India 53). In this case, Nyati’s intellect has little to do with her academic advancement and everything to do with her lack of a third language- English.

We interviewed Niyati and her family twice. In between the span of our two interviews, Niyati had been moved to a neighboring village to live with her aunt because the school in her home village was deemed inadequate by both Niyati and her mother, due to the lack of quality instruction. Niyati’s mother opted to move her rather than wait and have Niyati fall behind in her education. Niyati now lives away from her mother, father, sister, and brother in the hopes that her new school will provide her with better educational opportunities. When asked if Niyati had the ability to become a doctor her teacher replied “It is compulsory. She is the brightest [student] we have…” while simultaneously echoing her mother’s concerns that Niyati needs to learn English to progress to her potential 54). Her new school is Telugu medium.

Case study- SC/ST Hostel in Narayankhed

( Interview conducted June 24, 2010 in Naraynkhed Village. )

There are many hostel facilities in India that cater to those children in need of housing facilities while they pursue their studies. These hostels are generally geared towards SC and ST children and aim to help provide support for them to attend school on a consistent basis. The hostel we visited in Narayankhed is one such example.

Priya is in charge of both the SC and the ST hostels. While she holds different titles for each, she is effectively in charge of the running of both facilities. The children are separated according to their status as either SC or ST. While Priya claims that there is no discrimination and no reason other than caste association for the children to be separated, this is a questionable statement since separating the children based on caste title is in itself discriminatory. In addition, each hostel has different provisional allocations. For example, the ST hostel has one night watchman to watch the children while the SC hostel has two contract workers and a “kamati”- maid- who stay at night. All of these workers stay in the SC hostel at night.

Basic provisions like water are a problem in both facilities. Water has to be carried from outside sources and when it rains this method of transfer is severely hindered. Basic care essentials such as soap, toothpaste, shampoo and hair oil are paid for by monthly stipends from the government- fifty to seventy rupees a month depending on grade level ( At the time of research, this amount is equivalent to approximately $1.50 in American dollars. )).

What is particularly telling about this hostel is directly linked to language. Each family who wishes to enroll their child in the hostel for schooling must complete a form and supply the necessary proof of prior school attendance. Regardless of the varied languages of the surrounding area, these forms are only provided in Telugu. Despite the fact that parents are signing their minor children over to the care of complete strangers, there are no translation services provided when filling out and signing out these forms.

There is also a lack of language assistance when it comes to gathering information about these hostel choices. Parents in the area reported a wide range of comprehension about exactly what the hostels in Narayankhed provide. No parent interviewed had a firm understanding of what provisions are provided to their children, whether the hostels have toilet facilities and water, or who watches the children at night- including those parents with children currently residing in hostels. One mother of a girl residing in this hostel could not tell us who was in charge of watching her daughter at night. She places her faith in the word of her sister and brother-in-law who informed her of the hostel facilities for her daughter. She has never visited the hostel herself. She relies on her daughter to tell her if anything is wrong. Since her daughter (and her classmates) have never seen any other facilities or schools, she has no means of comparison and is less than apt at identifying problems faced by these facilities 55).

This lack of ability for parents to communicate with the hostels is not only an infringement upon their right to participate in their child’s education, it can also be severely limiting in the advancement of education for their children. At this particular hostel, Priya stated that she “guides” parents when they do not know what school to choose for their child. Based on the fact that many parents do not speak or read the language in which school information is provided, this gives Priya an immense amount of leverage in deciding who goes on in school and where they will go.

This power could be shifted back into the hands of parents and families of students if basic language services were provided. Printing admission forms in various languages is a start and would not pose a significant cost to the system.

Why it Matters

India’s tolerance of so many languages is often attributed to a respect for the diversity of its population. In reality, the commitment to multilingualism in the school system is holding non-majority language students back. It is striking to note that while government schools do not employ one centralized medium of instruction, the private schools in India most certainly do. Private school children in India learn English from their first year- in fact many private pre-schools use their English medium instruction as a lure for prospective parents 56). Those who rise to high positions in India are almost always former private school students. Those who acquire high positions through “reservation seats”- India’s form of affirmative action- are those who have been socially and economically left behind 57)) and are often viewed by the greater society as incompetent due to their need for social support. This sentiment is reflected even in the selection of interns for UNICEF during the time of this study. Each intern of Indian descent was educated solely in private schools and was fluent in English. Of approximately twenty- two Indian interns, UNICEF did not employ any interns who were educated in Indian government schools.

Given the evidence outlined, it is then hard to fathom how language can be seen as anything but a barrier to further education for India’s rural children. A child cannot possibly be expected to succeed if they do not understand their lessons- and one cannot expect comprehension if the lessons are taught in an unfamiliar language. By supporting an educational system that employs differing mediums of instruction dependent upon geographical location leads repeatedly to differing levels of access based simply on the region where a child was born.

While UNICEF employs the CRC and advocates for mother-tongue instruction, in a country such as India- which is clearly reliant upon a single language for success- this logic seems flawed and potentially harmful. Unless secondary schools and universities offer various mediums of instruction, it seems only logical that all children should be given the opportunity to attend these schools as they stand- English medium instruction schools. As it stands, only those able to pay for private school have the opportunity to truly excel in their continued education. While ELL classes may have to be employed for some time, the long- term benefits to Niyati and other students like her would far outweigh the short- term challenge of making all Indian schools utilize a standard medium of instruction.


The government of India has thus far failed to fully integrate their rural children into the educational system. While any factors may intertwine to affect the enrollment, retention, and advancement of rural schoolchildren in India, infrastructure, educational quality, and linguistic barriers were the most often identified barriers by respondents in the Kangti and Manoor mandals of Narayankhed. Despite the significant impact these factors have on the education of rural children and the recent passage of the RTE, there is not enough being done to ensure the complete eradication of these barriers. While some of the inattention can be attributed to the difficulty of the task coupled with a prevalent discriminatory attitude towards the rural areas, this can only truly account for the government’s inattention. As an impartial, international organization UNICEF has the potential ability to advocate for the rural population as an independent organization as well as an encouraging advisor to the government of India.

UNICEF’s presence in India is substantial and includes work in health, nutrition, water and sanitation, HIV/ AIDS, and child protection as well as education. The effort exerted by the organization is focused in large part on those areas identified by the MDGs but often falls short of influencing those areas identified as concerns by the rural citizens in India. UNICEF- India does acknowledge the vast challenges faced by the organization on their website. They cite a persistent gap in the enrollment of girl children and marginalized groups in school, a deficit in trained teachers and a severe lag in sanitation in schools throughout India 58). While improvements in each of these areas has admittedly been made thanks to the efforts by both UNICEF and the Indian Government, there is still an immense amount of work to do. Approximately eight million children are still out of school 59) and, as this study shows, even those that are counted as registered for school are not guaranteed an adequate education and its inherent benefits.

The MDG focus of UNICEF is a valid and understandable. The goals are concise and targets tangible. However, this limited focus is preventing the organization from creating lasting impacts in education. To do so, focus must be placed on areas identified by citizens affected rather than relying on generic goals created by the UN that seem to have a “one-size fits all” mandate.

A major contribution of UNICEF- India is its basic commitment to community based research. All of the research collected for this study was done during an internship program, which involved sending forty-four interns in teams throughout India to collect data from the field 60). However, what is needed is a broader acknowledgement of the interconnectedness of the areas explored as well as a willingness to support policies that reflect the direct concerns of marginalized citizens.

As India continues to develop into a highly progressive and capable nation, it is imperative that education be high on the list of development priorities for the government. Education is the single best way to ensure an active and productive population over a long period of time, though a strict adherence to the “traditional” model of education is not necessarily required . The best way that India can ensure truly lasting enrollment and a commitment to education from its citizens is to employ policies and implement changes that directly reflect the stated needs of marginalized citizens and serve these individuals in a meaningful way. More qualitative research is desperately needed within this field so that government policies and programs can be most effective. UNICEF has already added a growing body of field research in this area but a great deal more is still needed. More importantly, the government of India needs to acknowledge and implement the suggestions made by UNICEF from these qualitative studies. The RTE is a step in the right direction by the Indian government to eradicating the non-integration of rural children into the education system. But without an integration of qualitative data and significant steps to eradicate those factors identified by rural citizens as true barriers to education, little lasting progress can be expected in this area.

Education | India

This situation was described by many respondents in this study, with parents and children most often saying that teachers do not show up which leads them to keep their children home from school.
This study turned up primary schools with a wide range of grades served. Some schools served grades kindergarten- five while others served just grades one-three with no other school options within the community.
The 2001 Indian census defines “literate” as the ability to read and write a simple sentence in any language, with or without formal schooling. This is obviously not a definition employed by all countries. Amita Chudgar discusses the challenges of this official Indian definition of “literate” in her 2009 article “The Challenge of Universal Elementary Education in Rural India: Can Adult Literacy Play a Role?”.
Government of India, Indian Constitution, 86th Amendment (New Delhi, 1949
Government of India, The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (New Delhi, 2009
The constitution of India (1949) lists a list of all scheduled castes and tribes in an effort to address current needs based on past injustices.
This was first seen in Erakpally Village when Tilo, a student in grade four, was asked to recite her lessons, which she did in Telugu and with ease. However, when asked unrehearsed questions in Telugu, she said she could not understand and reverted to her mother tongue of Kannada. Interview conducted June 11, 2010 in Erakpally Village.
At least one parent in every family interviewed stated a difficulty in communicating with their child’s teacher due to a language barrier. When possible these parents speak to vidya volunteers (para teachers) who often speak the language of the community but are untrained and not assigned to every rural school.
Data on literacy rates was provided by Sadhana, the local NGO focusing on educational attainment for rural children and was drawn from official census data of the government of India.
According to several consecutive census results.
United Nations. Convention on the Rights of the Child. (Articles 28 & 29) HYPERLINK “http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htmhttp://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm. (Accessed January 11, 2011).
United Nations. Millennium Development Goals. HYPERLINK “http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/education.shtmlhttp://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/education.shtml (Accessed February 21, 2011).
United Nations. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26 (1), (December 10, 1948).
These numerous linkages include but are not limited to, the link between the right to freedom of thought and education, the right to participation in government and education, and the link between the right to an adequate standard of living and education.
Article 15 (1) of the Indian Constitution states “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them [sic].”
Chamarbagwala, Rubiana. “Regional Returns to Education, Child Labour and Schooling in India, Journal of Development Studies 44, no.2 (2008): 233- 257. Retrieved on January 23, 2011. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00220380701789935.
Chudgar, Amita, “The Challenge of Universal Elementary Education in Rural India: Can Adult Literacy Play a Role?” Comparative Education Review 53, no.3 (2009): 403-433. Retrieved on January 24, 2011 (Proquest Database).
Dostie, Benoit, et al., “Determinants of School Enrollment in Indian Villages”, Economic Development and Cultural Change 54, no.2 (Jan 2006): 405-421. Retrieved January 23, 2011. HYPERLINK “http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/497006http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/497006.
One such conclusion claims “Livestock ownership significantly reduces the probability of older girls’ school enrollment, likely reflecting the fact that, once capable of doing so, girls are often responsible for the care of livestock.” (pg 413) The concept that livestock ownership reduces school enrollment is not only highly suspect, it offers no solution since if this is where blame is placed, the only solution is to reduce the number of families owning livestock.
Pandey, Saroj, “Para-Teacher Scheme and Quality Education for all in India: Policy Perspectives and Challenges for School Effectiveness”, Journal of Education for Teaching 32, no 3 (2006): 319-334. Retrieved on January 23, 2011. HYPERLINK “http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02607470600782468http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02607470600782468
Tilak, Jandhyala, “How Free is Free Primary Education in India”, Economic and Political Weekly 31 (1996): 355-366.
Hornberger, Nancy, et al., “Multilingual Language Policy and School Linguistic Practice: Globalization and English- Language Teaching in India, Singapore, and South Africa”, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education 39, no 3 (2009): 305-320. Retrieved January 23, 2011. HYPERLINK “http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03057920802469663http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03057920802469663.
MEO, Interview conducted June 21, 2010 in Yesgi Village.
not pictured yet, graph shows a range of 10-70% of schools having functioning toilets from 2005-2010, mostly trending closer to the 20-30% percentile range
“Common toilet facilities” refers to facilities that are accessible for boys and girls without gender designation. There is no official data on how many schools offer separate facilities for girls- a provision that many families and students desire when a girl child reaches puberty. The sharp drop between 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 can be partially attributed to a lack of properly trained maintenance workers to handle problems with the facilities as they arise. Data for this table provided by the District Education Office in Sangareddy, Medak District- Andhra Pradesh, India.
As per SSA and the new Right to Education Act, a primary school must be available within one kilometer of a community. In reality, this is rarely the case.
Jandhayla Tilak discussed the prohibitive nature of “hidden costs” in his 1996 article “How Free is “Free” Public Education in India”. Transportation is one of many of the costs he explores.
As a measurement, consider our team’s walk to the Thouranayak, Khandanayak, and Ratanayak tandas under the village of Enakpallie on June 19th, 2010. Due to a lack of paved roads we were forced to walk from Enakpallie to the first tanda of Thouranayak- a distance of approximately three kilometers. This is the distance all children in Thouranayak tanda must walk in order to attend school since there is no school of any level in the tanda. Rain makes the long walk treacherous as mud becomes slippery and dangerous when ridden with rocks. Our travel to Khandanayak and Ratanayak were similarly tedious and exemplified the difficulty children have in getting to school when a school is not present in their own communities. Both Khandanayak and Ratanayak have primary schools but have no options for secondary schooling.
Deepsikha of Enakpallie Village expressed this sentiment exactly when discussing her father’s unwillingness to send her to a hostel so that she could continue her studies- despite the fact that he is in charge of registering interested students from his village at those same hostels. When asked why the discrepancy, Deepsikha’s mother responded “Only lower caste people send their children to towns to study.” Interview conducted June 23, 2010 in Enakpallie Village.
It is important to note that many parents do choose the hostel option when choosing to further their child’s education. However, what is important here is choice. When offered the option every parent said they would prefer their child have the option of attending school in their community if given the proper facilities and instruction. When no option exists and money is tight, parents often choose which children to send to school with boys being chosen more often then their sisters.
Rubiana Chamarbagwala explores this concept in her 2008 article “Regional Returns to Education, Child Labour and Schooling in India”.
See Case Study- Thouranayak Tanda
In Pulkurthie, both teachers who were present at the KGB girls school told us they had to move to Pulkurthie, away from their husbands and families, because their work assignments were so far away from their homes. Interview conducted June 22, 2010.
Consider Niyati, an exceptionally bright third grader by all accounts. When asked about her progress, her teacher stated that “We were all shocked to have such a smart child come from Mykor.” Interview Conducted July 12, 2010 in Borancha Village.
See “Language as a Barrier to Advancement”.
There wass some discrepancy as to what qualifications a vidya volunteer should have. Of the four vidya volunteers we interviewed individually, one had begun but not finished his degree; one had completed the 12th grade; one was currently enrolled in intermediate school (11th and 12th grades); and one had quit school at age 15 to get married. Were these volunteers not used as substitute teachers, these discrepancies might cause less concern.
See “Case Study- Government Primary School, Kangti Village”
Among many other researchers, Wayne Au released a book in 2009 entitled Unequal by Design- High Stakes Testing and the Standardization of Inequality that addresses this topic in depth through the lens of post-“No Child Left Behind” legislation in the US. Wayne Au, Unequal by Design- High Stakes Testing and the Standardization of Inequality (New York: Routledge, 2009).
Chapter V of the RTE Act states that curriculum for primary school students should consider “the all around development of the child; building up a child’s knowledge, potentiality [sic], and talent; development of the physical and mental abilities of the child to the fullest extent; learning through activities, discovery and exploration in a child-friendly and child-centered manner” among other things. Chapter V- sections b-e.
The RTE states in its added schedule titled “Norms and Standards for a School” that every school building is required to have a playground. Section 2(vi). The same schedule also states that every school building must have a “safe and adequate drinking facility to all children”- which addresses Sudesh’s other concern. Section 2(iv).
At the time of this research, we were told there was a lawsuit in process concerning the fate of government appointed teachers. The two classes of teachers, those with a diploma in education and those with a Bachelor’s in education, were battling the government of India for the right to choose what grades to teach. A current government order meant that teachers with only a diploma-those less qualified- could only teach grades one through five and those with a Bachelor’s could only teach grades six through ten. While the government argued that those who were more qualified should be teaching higher grades, many teachers with Bachelor degrees wished to stay in their current placements claiming younger students deserve a good educational base. The lawsuit put a freeze on all transfer orders and many teachers were placed in limbo, unsure of their potential work assignments.
Ajit, Interview conducted July 16, 2010 in Kangti Village.
Ajit, Interview Conducted July 16, 2010 in Kangti Village.
United Nations, Millennium Development Goals- Goal 2. HYPERLINK “http://www.mdgmonitor.org/goal2.cfmhttp://www.mdgmonitor.org/goal2.cfm. Accessed April 20, 2011.
UN, Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 28 refers to education. Article 30 refers to a child’s mother tongue.
Government of India, “The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act”, chapter VI, article 29 (2)(f).
There are 28 states in India with a additional 7 union territories. Many of these states do not even list Hindi, the national language, as one of their official languages.
not yet displayed on devtome, technical difficulties
While our individual interviews revealed that most children were being taught in Telugu, our visit to a residential government high school in Pulkurthy Village exemplified the possible challenges of inconsistencies in medium of instruction. The two teachers present told us they have students every year who struggle to adjust to Telugu when they enter the sixth grade. Interview conducted June 22, 2010 in Pulkurthy Village.
The UNICEF-India website lists, by category, all publications and reports from 2004- present. None address language as a barrier to educational advancement.
This fact is reflected in the selection of interns by UNICEF during the span of this study. None of the twenty-two interns of Indian decent was educated in a government school and all were fluent in English. Of those who held posts at UNICEF itself, everyone we interacted with was private school- ie English medium instruction- educated. Even the self-made leader of Sadhana taught himself English based on a recognition of the potential benefits to the advancement of his work.
Interview conducted July 19, 2010 in Boratha Village.
Interview conducted June 19, 2010 in Ratanayak Tanda.
One only need google “private pre-schools in India” to see evidence of this fact. Each website is in English and each proudly describes their English instruction alongside their guarantee of future educational success for each child.
The constitution of India allows for reservation seats for identified classes. These provisions have been expanded and clarified in numerous court cases throughout India. Government of India, Indian Constitution, Part XVI, articles 330- 342. (New Delhi, 1949). HYPERLINK “http://lawmin.nic.in/coi/coiason29july08.pdfhttp://lawmin.nic.in/coi/coiason29july08.pdf. (Accessed April 13, 2011
UNICEF- India, Programmes- Education. HYPERLINK “http://www.unicef.org/india/education.htmlhttp://www.unicef.org/india/education.html. Accessed April 20, 2011.
UNICEF- India, Programmes- Education. HYPERLINK “http://www.unicef.org/india/education.htmlhttp://www.unicef.org/india/education.html. Accessed April 22, 2011.
This internship program is an annual undertaking involving interns from around the world and produces reports related to each of the areas UNICEF works on in India.

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