By Shahid Andrabi
Education is an investment in human beings. It enlightens the scope of living and helps better the score of development. This motive in mind, an India-wide mission was drafted to ensure “education for all”, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
The SSA was launched a decade ago to universalize education in India through a multi-pronged strategy of setting up new schools, improving the student-teacher ratio and building holistic infrastructure in schools. In its first year, the scheme was allotted Rs 200 crore. The programme reshaped the schooling roadmap
in India and improved literacy.
Jammu and Kashmir, however, seems to not have benefitted as much. According to the 2011 census data released by the Joint Chief Principal Census Officer, the literacy rate in J&K is 67.2 per cent, way below the national average of 72.99 per cent.
Why is our state lagging behind and how can this gap be bridged?
SSA aimed at opening schools in all areas that didn’t have any and, indeed, thousands of such schools came up across Jammu and Kashmir. But, after the initial heady days, the SSA became more an employment scheme than an educational programme.
The teachers recruited under the scheme were neither screened nor interviewed. Their qualification criterion was pegged as Class 12 and premium was laid on the marks they had obtained rather than quality. This jeopardized the entire programme and its aim.
As for infrastructure in SSA schools, a sample survey conducted by this writer in Kupwara’s Lolab revealed that as many as 126 such schools out of 242 are housed in dilapidated buildings without proper drinking water and
If our state is to benefit from the SSA programme, it is imperative that government ensure better facilities in the schools and well-qualified and well-paid teachers. It must spare no effort to ensure “education for all”.