- How many out-of school children does India have? Are night schools a satisfactory remedy for lack of educational opportunity?
- Shyoji Ram believes education will empower his students. Is an educated citizenry fundamental to a democracy? Is participation limited if education is limited?
- The United Nations has declared the goal of Education For All by the Year 2015. How likely is that to occur in Rajasthan?
India has more children out of school than any other country in the world. A grassroots night school initiative was started in order to address this problem, which in India affects girls more than boys. The teacher featured in this clip is hoping to give his students a voice and the means to participate in India's democratic system.
Many Americans assume that free public education is a fact of life, but that is not true for over 100 million children around the world. The 20th Century saw a growing divide as more and more industrialized countries embraced state-supported education, and non-industrialized countries did not. In the non-industrialized countries, education remained bound by traditional practices or was available only to the wealthy.
To address this problem 1,100 participants from 164 countries met in Senegal in April of 2000 to adopt the Dakar Framework for Action, a re-affirmation of the 1990 World Declaration on Education for All. One of the commitments made in the Dakar Framework was to ensure that "by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality."
While the Dakar Framework states that education is a human right, the reality for children around the world is very different. Education is often restricted by gender and/or income. In some places there is a shortage of qualified teachers. Some children around the world must cope with diseases like HIV/AIDS within their families, schools, and communities. Lastly, there can be a conflict between traditional values and the push toward education.
Securing government and community support for education has not been simple. Looked at historically, education has been a challenge that spans ages. Confined to the secular or religious elite for millennia, it was only at the beginning of the 19th Century that Napoleon introduced the concept of free public education, to foster loyalty to the central government. Enlightenment thinkers and their heirs stressed the importance of education as a foundation for representative government. Later, industrialization created the need for basic literacy for factory workers. At the dawning of the 21st century, quality free public education has now been achieved for the industrialized world. The challenge remains to bring it equally to all the world's children.
To put a human face to the global crisis in access to education, WIDE ANGLE filmed seven children around the world as they began school in 2003. This effort resulted in the documentary TIME FOR SCHOOL. The film crew returned to visit them again in 2006, making a second documentary, BACK TO SCHOOL.
Because of its size, India has more out-of-school children -- 40 million -- than any country in the world -- and more child laborers.
Night schools started 30 years ago as a grassroots initiative to address these problems.
Today more than 3,000 children in Rajasthan attend them, but it is only a marginal solution to an overwhelming problem.
SHYOJI RAM, TEACHER:
This is our earth. It's round. This map is flat, but otherwise our earth is round.
If I keep four this side and four this side, it will equal up to eight. How much will four plus four be?
There are states in India where nearly every child goes to school. Neeraj's teacher is hoping to give his students a voice and the means to participate in India's democratic system.
SHYOJI RAM, TEACHER:
This education's going to help them. They'll know where and what to say if they go to school. An illiterate person doesn't know these things. These girls are more confident about expressing themselves. And they're beginning to express themselves.
By the time I come back -- everyone's asleep. When I grow up, I want to go to a big school to study. By then, I'll know more -- the alphabet, addition, subtraction -- I'll know a lot, and then maybe I can become a teacher.