As per 2011 Census, Karnataka ranks 23rd with a literacy rate of 75.60%, a little above India’s average literacy rate of 74.04%. The census reported 82.85% of males and 68.13% of females in the state being literate. Though an improvement can be seen compared to 2001 Census where the reported literacy rate of the state was 67.04%, with 76.29% of males and 57.45% of females being literate; there is quite a distance to be covered to reach the golden 100%.
Two of the main hindrances to education are malnutrition and poverty, issues faced not just in Karnataka, but across India.
It has been observed that Akshara Dasoha — the mid-day meal initiative by Government of Karnataka, and Ksheera Bhagya — the State Government’s scheme to provide milk to children of government schools and Anganwadi centres have turned out to be effective measures in reducing school drop-out rate. Reportedly, the number of out-of-school children in 2016 was 90,000 as against 7,00,000 in 2001. The total number of dropouts in the state was recorded to be 12,878 in 2015–16. Bella Shetty, Joint Director, Directorate of Public Instruction was quoted saying, “Students have stuck to government schools because of schemes like mid-day meal, Ksheera Bhagya, free textbooks, and also academic performance and efforts of the faculty.” Headmasters and teachers of beneficiary schools and parents of mid-day meal beneficiaries agree with this too.
However, in a survey conducted by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan ahead of the 2017–18 academic year revealed a particular dropout trend across Karnataka. It surfaced that about 63% of children aged between 11 and 13 years dropped out of school — an indication that a significant number of children leave school after completing lower primary classes. The reason? Well, there are quite a few but the directly inflicting factors are:
So, how do we tackle this situation? Should we leave it all to the Government? Or, should we share the responsibility too?
One of the practical and productive ways to bring about social change is to get involved with NGOs. Since NGOs work for various causes, it provides a platform to contribute your effort, time, and resources for the cause you identify with. As we are talking about measures to tackle school drop-out rate in Karnataka, it is imperative to make a mention of The Akshaya Patra Foundation. Akshaya Patra is a mid-day meal NGO headquartered in Bengaluru, Karnataka. It has been providing freshly cooked, nutritious mid-day meals to government school children in Karnataka for the past 17 years. It operates seven kitchens in six locations of Karnataka namely Bengaluru, Ballari, Hubbali, Mangaluru, Mysuru, and Jigani. Each day Akshaya Patra feeds 4,86,172 children across Karnataka, thereby furthering the impact of mid-day meal in association with the State Government. The NGO is actively contributing to the Government’s effort to increase enrolment, decrease dropouts, and improve the health of children.
Akshaya Patra has a Pan India presence with a beneficiary base of 17,12,460 children studying in 14,173 schools across 36 locations in 12 states. It has been recognised as the world’s largest NGO-run school lunch programme.
In order to multiply the impact of the Mid-Day Meal Programme, Akshaya Patra has been strategically and sustainably expanding its operational base across Indian topography, while also initiating several campaigns so that the entire society can get involved to support the basic needs — food and education — for children. An on-going campaign of the NGO is the ‘Back to School Campaign’ that aims to bring children back to school for the new academic year 2018–19 by continuing to provide mid-day meals. You can read more about this Indian NGO and also choose to partake in its efforts to transform young lives in Karnataka and India by visiting their official website(www.akshayapatra.org).
Being aware of facts will not change the society, but acting upon it will!