FROM A CORRESPONDENT
Chandel (Manipur), Aug 29: Though the rate of enrollment of students in the primary level of schools have considerably increased during the last few years in all the states of India but yet the retention of students has remains a biggest challenge.
Official reports reveal that in all-India level, more than 17% of students who enrolled in Class I in 2009-10 did not enroll in Class V in 2013-14.
Ironically in this regard the scerio of the schools of the North Eastern region is much worse in comparison to other parts of India. According to a report published by District Information System for Education (DISE), in Manipur at an average out of total students who enrolled for school at the lower primary level nearly 18 per cent of students were reported to have been dropout which is even more than the all India average.
As per the report while most of the states in India showing an improvement in the student dropout rates from the previous years, it’s surprising that more and more students are dropping out in the North Eastern region. Apart from Manipur the dropout rate for the other North Eastern state are as galand (19.4%), Mizoram (13%), Aruchal Pradesh (10.9%), Meghalaya (10.3%), Assam (7.4%), Sikkim (4.6%) and Tripura (3.6%).
Studies have revealed that there is a sharp, direct correlation between sanitation infrastructure in schools and retention of students in schools at primary level.
Sanitation can influence retention in several ways. First, an absence of toilets in schools, particularly for girls, makes it impossible for them to continue in school at upper level. Unlike in homes, altertives such as river banks or secluded spots cannot compensate for the absence of a toilet. Second, sanitation facilities such as toilets and hand-washing have a direct bearing on a child’s health. Insanitary conditions are the principal cause of ailments such as diarrhoea. And prolonged illness could eventually lead parents to discontinue their child(s)’s education.
Moreover there is a clear link between lack of sanitation and malnutrition as it has been conclusively established as part of several research findings. Problems like aemia due to under-developed absorptive capacity in children may also lead to students dropping out of school. This problem could be aggravated as school kitchens under the Mid-Day Meal Programme also suffer due to lack of sanitation and hygiene.
Thus there is an urgent need of hour that, while improving the quality of teachers and other infrastructure is important to increase retention rates, as it is quite evident that good sanitation facilities have a direct bearing on the inclition of students and parents to continue with primary school education. On the flip side, sanitation could have a positive impact on a student’s cognitive and retentive ability, which could motivate children and their parents to continue with their schooling.
A special focus on the North-east is critical in this regard, since the quality of sanitation infrastructure in schools of North-eastern region is very poor. Moreover the success of Swaccha Bharat Mission is to a greater extent is related with behavioral change of human and hence changing people’s attitude towards sanitation has been the biggest challenge faced by the government in this regard.
It is only when a concerted effort from all stakeholders — schools, parents, students and the administration if taken in consideration than something positive could be expected.