Thursday, 13 December 2012

'Nanhi Kali'??? Whose???

In February 2011, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi granted permission to the Naandi Foundation to run the Nanhi Kali programme ( which is supported by K. C. Mahindra Education Trust ) in 15 municipal primary schools . All these schools now fall , after the trifurcation of the MCD , under the North Delhi Municipal Corporation . Under this programme girl students from class 1 to 5 are supposed to be provided ' academic support ' , within the school campus , for two hours daily after the school closes and also given a ' kit ' which includes a bag , a pair of shoes and socks each , two pairs of uniforms , copies , a belt , some undergarments and stationery . A report of the Naandi Foundation ( made available , in response to an RTI , by the NDMC Education Department ) says that this programme is supporting 70,000 girls as Nanhi Kalis across 9 states .
In February 2011, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi granted permission to the Naandi Foundation to run the Nanhi Kali programme ( which is supported by K. C. Mahindra Education Trust ) in 15 municipal primary schools . All these schools now fall , after the trifurcation of the MCD , under the North Delhi Municipal Corporation . Under this programme girl students from class 1 to 5 are supposed to be provided ' academic support ' , within the school campus , for two hours daily after the school closes and also given a ' kit ' which includes a bag , a pair of shoes and socks each , two pairs of uniforms , copies , a belt , some undergarments and stationery . A report of the Naandi Foundation ( made available , in response to an RTI , by the NDMC Education Department ) says that this programme is supporting 70,000 girls as Nanhi Kalis across 9 states .
Nanhi Kali is a sponsorship programme in which individuals and institutitions can become ' foster parent ' or ' guardian ' of a girl in India by monetarily supporting her schooling . The Foundation promises to send to the donor the ' adopted ' girl's photograph , personal details and academic performance reports on a 6-monthly basis . The advertisement of the programme , a regular feature in the Seminar ( a monthly journal ), says , ' This is Shreya ' , ' Her parents abandoned her and vanished ' , ' With no one left in this world ' , ' Her parents can't send her to school ' etc . It is impossible for us to accept that any of this is true of the students of our Municipal or State government schools . Indeed , most of these statements are factually absurd and contradictory to the lived realities of our students . What is true about these descriptions though is that they reveal a patronising , pitying mindset at best and a demeaning , undignifying politics otherwise . ( Nor do we believe that even if this was a truthful account of any of our students , such a programme would be desirable or even appropriate . ) ' Academic Support ' , referred to as ' tuition ' not only by the students but by the field employees of the Foundation itself and in its reports too , is provided by girls who are mostly pursuing undergraduate courses through correspondence and don't possess any professional teaching qualification . The declared objective of this ' support ' is to " help children attain basic language and numeracy competencies at grade specific level " . These tutors are being paid  rupees 1400 per month . 
In the first year of the programme ( 2011-12 ) , each girl student of the school was provided the ' kit ' whereas the average number of students staying back for tuitions was in the range of 15% . All the girl students were photographed whereas their parents were not informed either about this fact or about its purpose . Indeed , the regular teachers of the school were themselves made to understand that photographs were being taken for preparing I-cards , a claim which turned out to be patently false . In the school about which we have more intense and engaged observations , only those students were given ' kits ' in this session whose names were enrolled in the programme at one point or the other . Our continuous opposition and engagement with students and parents in this school was partly responsible for the steep drop in the number of students staying back for tuitions here . As a result , this time ' kits ' were distributed on the condition that the student would have to enroll and stay back for the tuitions regularly . Even then , the number of students staying back never went over 40% of the day's attendance , and this peak too lasted just 3-4 days ( when the ' kits ' were being used as baits ) . 
The programme is explicitly based on the PPP policy . We must situate it in the context of the policy declarations of the Chairperson of the Education Committee of the NDMC where she has been continuously inviting the Corporate Bodies and NGOs in order to ' improve ' the municipal schools . An example of this is the policy level statement where she said that uniforms in some ( set-to-be ) Model schools in the NDMC will be provided by a ' reputed ' NGO which will design them on the lines of ( what else but ) another reputed entity , the ' private school ' . The publicly stated argument behind this decision was that the uniform of the public ( municipal ) schools produces an inferiority complex among their students ! What makes this significant is the fact that till last year the Corporation was providing uniforms to all the students of its schools through public funds . Obviously , it is futile to expect from the governments committed to the PPP policy that they would make constitutional and respectful provisions even for people's fundamental rights . 
Since the CSR sponsored programmes are being used consciously and in a planned manner to dilute , run-down and destroy the state school system , we can use this example to understand the anti-people character of this policy . Not just the said corporate organisation but the Education Department of the Municipal Corporation too didn't find anything amiss in the idea that a child aged 5-11 be expected to leave her home by 7 in the morning and then reach home after attending the post-school tuitions by 3:30 or even later . It is not surprising for a corporate , capitalist entity to conceive of such a programme which disregards in a cavalier fashion the necessary conditions for learning and the overall health needs of a child - all in the name of a self-glorified ' social  responsibility ' towards those who are expected to take any rotten thing given with any petty sentiment if  offered free and be beholden for the same . After all , they can't do better . The disturbing fact is that the Education Department of a Municipal Corporation concurred with the idea that a child of 5-11 years be asked to stay back after school for another 2 hours , to be tutored ( by untrained , under-educated , under-paid and unaccountable and irregular employees of a private party ) , without raising any questions as to the certain harms to the child's dignity , learning and health inherent in any such programme . And how can it even be conceived that if suitable academic work is not being transacted over 4-5 hours by trained , educated , regular and supervised teachers of a State-run school , then such ( an assumed ) gap can be filled by persons lacking all the above characteristics in just 2 hours ? The assumption that qualified and regular teachers of the Corporation are not able to successfully transact even ' basic grade specific competencies ' is not only humiliating to the teachers but should have shamed the Department authorities too . It is altogether a different though pedagogically fundamental matter that it is not just documents like the NCF ( 2005 ) and progressive , critical theories in education which question the very reductionist and superficial bases of such age and grade defined competencies ; as teachers our own experiences in schools prove that children learn in diverse manners and may have varied curves reflecting different interests and readiness within a grade and this knowledge doesn't irk us but enables us to work diligently with love and patience . On the other hand , such programmes and policies are clearly trying to belittle and prove meaningless the very idea and institution of Teacher Education .
To send the photographs of girl students to the donors ( and thus turning them into the Nanhi Kalis of the unknown and the pitying rich ) without even telling , leave alone taking permission from , their parents is not only a matter of disregarding informed consent. It is also a gross violation of the Privacy of the students, apart from being an affront upon the self-respect and dignity of not just a child, her family, but of a whole class and, if there be an iota of sensitivity among the functionaries, the State itself. It was observed that when a student did not wish to stay back for tuitions on a given day, some tutors were likely to force her to stay back and publicly insult her by passing embarrassing comments about her having 'taken the kit'. No doubt, the programme organisers and its philosophy is much more and fundamentally responsible for such a  disrespectful behaviour than the tutors themselves. We have received no response from the Foundation or the Trust till date to our three e-mailed and posted questionnaires, and thus the organisers have refused to acknowledge what is visible on the ground - that students kept on leaving the programme, whether due to a sense of hurt dignity, hunger, tiredness, boredom, unsatisfactory tutoring, or some other reasons. As to the 'kit' (which includes a belt, a bag and copies, all displaying the Trust's and Foundation's names) the comments of a fellow teacher in the same school reveal a lot: "Nobody can say that these students study in our [ Corporation] school". Thus, the students, having had thrust upon them ( both by the design of the corporate NGO and the equally criminal negligence of the education department )  a sponsorship they did not apply for , have been turned into moving/living advertisements of private entities they know next to nothing about. 
All these distortions can be understood to be flowing from the ideology and system which proposes and puts in place refined parameters for the children of the special classes and the misleadingly attractive package of inferior, disrespectful and ad-hoc compromises for other children. Corporate NGOs, out to market and  advertise for private capital, and governments themselves are hell bent on proving that fundamental issues of privacy, rights, dignity, established, considered norms for teachers and holistic/critical education are meaningless and undesirable for  children studying in State-run schools. Forces which want to turn education, through the politics of free market, into a commodity which can be sold and bought for profiteering, are publicising with a great sense of pride and benevolence that (a third rate) education of the children of the working classes would be provided by the charity of the rich. The message being conveyed is that it would be a matter of gratitude for these children if their 'liberation, advancement and success' come through owing to the private charitable arrangements made for their three Rs and were they to get, as rewards, temporary,contractual or even casual employment with the very same private forces. Which are then both appeased and amply rewarded having gained such an indebted workforce. 

In the context of the 'Nanhi Kali' programme, it was shocking that the education department of the NDMC responded in the first week of November 2012 ( after a long series of RTIs, correspondences and representations ) by telling us that the programme did not have its permission for this session (2012-13), whereas it was indeed running full steam (that is, for more than half the session) even then in at least 10 schools! All this while, a series of false claims and lies was being presented ( to the parents, students and us ) by the employees and, in the reports of the Foundation. 

In fact, leave alone the parents, even the teachers did not know (were not informed) in the beginning about the nature of the programme- whether private or public- and its politico-philosophical standing. In the schools where we were not in touch with the parents regarding the pedagogical and political shortcomings of the programme, most of them continued to remain under the impression that this was some sort of a government project/scheme! Government and Corporate forces are using the trickeries of Contractualisation and Outsourcing to increase the confusion and obfuscation among the people regarding the ethical differences between the Public and the Private. Governments are trying to shrug off their constitutional duties towards public education in order to help establish the monopolistic control and hegemony of Private-Profiteering Forces by giving them decisive roles in public spaces and institutions under the rubric of CSR and the PPP policy .

The challenge before us is exacerbated by the fact that not only do the Corporate bodies dare to propose and run all kinds of humiliating programmes for the people by using terms such as 'deprived' and 'social responsibility' (while at the same time, being recklessly irresponsible in their primary establishments), but the present character of the State itself is such that it is planning, sponsoring and promoting these programmes with complete shamelessness. All those who believe in democracy and equality can never tolerate this unjust state of affairs and will continue to wage in unity our fight against these assaults on public education and people's dignity. 

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