e live in a time when we often hear of the brightest minds being produced in India. However, it is extremely important that we face the fact that we also rank towards the bottom in almost every educational index that deals with primary education, in order to be able to take action.
While the number of children attending school in India continues to rise (up to 94%), the education system has been inadequately developed. We are wracked by a shortage of resources, schools, classrooms and teachers.The most worrying fact is that almost 42.39% of our children drop out before completing Standard V; many of those who stay on learn little.
Our strategy for furthering access to quality education relies on effective school reform, teacher capacity building, and helping communities establish small schools in extremely underserved regions.
elief Foundation based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu was started in Sep 1998 with an intention to reach out to children in crisis and in high risk circumstances, offering institutional or family based rehabilitation solutions. India has the largest population of children in any country in the world. Each year, out of millions of children born in India, one third live below the poverty line, the mortality rate of children under 5 years old being around 56 (per 1000 live births) in India (http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/india_statistics.html) children more likely to suffer from malnutrition and health deprivation, many roam the streets some are coerced into being child labourers, sent to juvenile homes or are sexually exploited as child prostitutes.
A sizeable number do not receive any formal education. As a consequence of their social, economic, physical or mental condition, many of these children are criminalized or become delinquent. The primary causes of juvenile crimes beside neglect of children are the lack of education leading to continued poverty, lesser life options and apathy among adults dealing with children feed into the so-called poverty trap.
With such parameters tugging at our heart strings, as a group of young aware citizens we set out with an initial objective - to understand the problems of children in high risk circumstances, in order to work towards breaking this vicious cycle of juvenile crime and delinquency. The action plan was to give the children opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner, in conditions of freedom and dignity and protected against exploitation. Step by step, we secured a clear understanding from our pilot projects of the reasons for children's neglect and deprivation at every stage in their lives. All these happened in a span of a few years from our inception.
Our areas of work focus were on the improvement of the situation of children residing in or are in contact with High risk and vulnerable factors, besides the Juvenile Justice System. In time, we moved into the education arena, the children led us there. We found that there are a lot of children who have difficulty in learning and writing. Yes, in every school; that too in spite of being intelligent; all to do with the present educational system in schools, which many don't seem to be able to cope with and complete. Some shine, fortunately, even though the system does not support them. And some, sadly, drop out or become under-capacitated individuals. Teachers watch helplessly as most of the time they are not equipped to provide quality education, even though they would desire for their classrooms.
RELIEF's decade-long work in the juvenile field envisions not only reducing the flow of children into the juvenile-correction system but also preventing the root cause of dropping out of school. We are now investing our resources on prevention of juvenile delinquency and dropping out by offering Education support programs to children and teachers.
Children taught us that they need to be heard and given education that they aspire for, till their age of economic independence. Hence our focus shifted from rehabilitation at the start to education improvement as a mode of prevention of drop out and delinquency.