Day by day the population of Mumbai is growing. With this growing population Mumbai’s responsibility to cater to basic amenities has increased, including providing quality education and improving literacy rate. Imparting education to a generation which will contribute to the growing economic position of the city becomes a must. This will also create a social change in the position of marginalized and vulnerable sections of the city that are living in the slums, chawls, and on the streets as homeless. But the public education system – even though spending almost Rs 53,000 per child annually in Mumbai – is not able to tackle the high dropout rates in schools and the privatization of education system in the city. The BMC and the state run school mechanism need to be strengthened to ensure access to education to the most marginal groups. In addition, the alarming trend of school dropouts and rising private education institutions need to be checked.
The Right to Education Act
The Right to Education is one of the fundamental rights in our constitution. It is covered under Right to life under Article 21 (A), for providing education to children from age group of 6 to 14 years. The Act reiterated the important component of free and compulsory education for all children irrespective of gender, religion, class, caste and also includes children with physical/other disabilities between the age group of six to fourteen years. It mandates the right to a neighborhood government school till completion of elementary education (Class 1 to VIII). All children must be provided with good quality education which includes a set of basic facilities, minimum instructional hours and an adequate number of teachers. All these provisions were to be implemented by 2013. Today, all over the country government data notifies an abysmal figure of 8% achievement. The figure in Mumbai is most likely to be similar or even worse.
The majority marginalized in Mumbai: Due to lack of resources and poverty, most of the families living in urban slums, chawls and on pavements choose to send their children to Municipal Schools. Improving the standard of education and infrastructure is a big challenge for the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai. Simultaneously, along with the growing population, there is an increasing demand to open new schools with favorable amenities to reach out to each and every child of the city.
The lack of schools and imbalance between primary and secondary education: According to 2011 census, Mumbai District Population is 33, 38,031 persons and the Mumbai suburban population is 86, 40,419. If an estimate of 22.5% of this population is children aged between 3 to 18 years, it means that there is a school going population of 7,51,057 in North and Central Mumbai and 19,44,094 in the Mumbai suburbs. It is estimated that Mumbai has less than half the required number of schools for this population and has severe shortfall of secondary schools. Presently only about 1248 government run primary and about 49 secondary schools are running. The huge gap between the primary and secondary schools are the major reason for high school dropout ratio.
Non inclusion of pre-primary into the educational system: In terms of pre-primary education, 90% of Anganwadis are run in the private homes where the place is not appropriate for teaching and playing. They also lack basic infrastructure like toilets, seating arrangements, water, space for playing, etc. There is no linkage between the pre-school system and the existing school system for admissions of children, since MCGM’s interpretation of the word primary education is not inclusive of pre-school.
School to population ratio: It is very important to know the school to population ratio in order to reserve the plots for the schools in order to make it accessible to every child as mentioned in the RTE. Proper utilization and development of these plots is pertinent to reach the marginalized, vulnerable population. To some extent, planning for reservation of plots for the development of schools had been provided in the earlier Development plan but the authorities have failed to execute the same.
Identifying critical intervention areas: The map on the left reveals the ground reality of illiterate people living in the heart of our city. In M ward, Chembur (East) has 56 schools for 8,06,433 people and Chembur (West) has 37 schools for 4, 12,163 people. In Dadar area (G/N ward) there are about 6, 02,628 residents and it has 67 schools; still illiteracy rate is high in this area. Kurla (L ward) has 90 schools for 8,91,208 people. In Malad (P/N ward) there are 77 schools for 9,43,605 people. In Santa Cruz (H/E ward) there are 57 schools for 5, 55,179 people.
The 6 problematic wards: These six wards also correspond to the six lowest literacy rates and lowest scores in the Human Development Index among Mumbai’s 24 wards. These wards highlighted as part of the eastern suburbs account for 74.4% of Mumbai’s slums. Areas in these wards, such as Dadar, Matunga, Chembur and parts of Kurla not only have poor quality schools, but poor living conditions in chawls, slums and pavement dwellings resulting in overall low human development scores. Resettlements of slum dwellers have forced children to move to the northern suburbs where fewer public schools are available. This shows the unequal distribution and institutionalized discrimination in providing basic amenities to the urban poor.
60% of children out of school: Report made by Pratham (NGO) in collaboration with UNESCO states that 60% of children are out of schools in Mumbai. This also rings the alarm for a need to have more effective and functioning BMC schools in Mumbai.