Hindi movie industry top rung actress and former Miss World Priyanka Chopra has joined the campaign for right of every child in India to go to school. Priyanka was appointed UNICEF national ambassador earlier this year.
The National award winning actress is lending support to the Awaaz Do campaign, and has voiced her support in a video message encouraging people to sign up on the campaign website. Priyanka said in the video “School was the best time of my life, I loved school. Every time I see kids going to school, it brings back such amazing memories of my own time,"
"Education can change lives. That's why I'm raising my voice for the 8 million children who are out of school... We've tried silence. It's now time to speak up for every child's right to be educated," she added.
The Awaaz Do campaign was launched nationwide in November to increase awareness of low schooling numbers in India. It is a fact that about eight million children in India, aged six to 14, still do not go to school.
Since the launch, more than sixteen thousand Indians have supported the cause, and signed up on the campaign website or by sending an SMS.
We ran a small physical store at the Christmas carnival of Royale Concorde International School in Bangalore on the 17th December. This was our first live experience, with limited merchandise of some stationery from Faber Castell, books from Scholar's Hub and CDs from Edurite (Manipal K-12).
Given the fact that people did not expect to see a Retail store selling our type of merchandise, we did perhaps not too badly. The experience got us a bunch of learning in terms of visual merchandising, managing the store itself and attempting to block shrinkage. And some amount of shrinkage did happen when crowds came in and we got a bit short-handed.
Shrinkage might be getting choked in the US, but certainly is a living nightmare in Retail in India. Also, of course we were doing manual billing and thus it became rather impossible to do quick reconciliations multiple times in the day. We lost at least two high value CDs, and probably some books and a bit of stationery but fortunately all in very small quantities.
The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has issued a circular to all schools in the city to furnish details of admissions in the 2011-2012 academic sessions. This is to ensure and monitor the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act. The RTE legislation promises free and compulsory education to children in the age group of six to 14 regardless of the socio-economic strata that they might belong to. The RTE also mentions that the school admission procedure should be “non-discriminatory, rational, transparent” and this recent circular is after schools (e.g. Mount Carmel, Anand Niketan) violated the requirement.
The circular says, "The commission would like to have the information in respect of children which your institution proposed to admit in class one in the academic session 2011-12."
Apart from Class I, the circular also asks school principals to submit details of pre-school / pre-primary class admissions and the number of children proposed to be enrolled in these classes in the new session.
School students continue to be victims in Kashmir (as we had mentioned in one of our earlier posts). Schools being open has become a rarity in the last half year. However, one school in Srinagar remains determined to make an impact and continue to impart education. Sarfi Memorial Institute has decided to remain functioning through the curfews and the terrorist / separatist called shutdowns.
The school has been advertising on local TV channels and newspapers that it would provide education through extended periods of turmoil. "We have decided to have lodging and boarding facilities in the same building where classes will be organised. In the past, we gave priority to quality teachers. This time, we recruited four teachers only on the promise that they would work during nights and stay here," Muhammad Ashraf, the administrator of the institute mentioned. Sarfi Memorial Institute has constructed a new 60-room building with classrooms with residential facilities. The school is receiving a large number of queries from parents on how the school would run during curfew and street protests.
Since March of this year, attendance at schools has dropped, particularly in separatist-dominated areas (including the capital city of Srinagar) since parents refrain from sending their children out of homes for fear of violence on days of curfew or shutdowns.
The state government is starting to respond to the educational needs of students who could not attend classes this summer by reducing the annual syllabus for board exams and plans to organise post-examination classes on lessons and chapters dropped from the syllabus.
Quite like in Jammu & Kashmir, insurgency has started impacting school children in the east-central state of Chhattisgarh. Since 2005, schools have been used to accommodate security forces (battling the Naxals have been accommodated in schools, especially in the Bastar district) and have routinely been targeted by the insurgents.
Officials are mentioning that "The authorities in the 40,000 sq km restive Bastar region (made up of five districts of Bijapur, Narayanpur, Bastar, Kanker and Dantewada) have been instructed to urgently arrange alternative buildings where the central forces can be shifted from schools to abide by instructions given by the Supreme Court". The shifting process will be completed on priority though only a few buildings are available in Bastar district’s extreme forested interiors where Maoists have been strongly entrenched for a long while.
Supreme Court’s remark against the government for inaction has resulted in the state government making progress in moving the security forces out of schools and finding alternative accommodation. The Chhattisgarh government mentioned that will be making alternative arrangements for damaged schools or provide alternate housing for the schools. Security forces are gradually being moved out of schools in the state’s southern areas
Gradually a bunch of cricketers have started promoting alcohol by doing commercials. Yuvaraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and others have already done that with Royal Stag (Seagram India). The latest is the 26Cr deal signed by team India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni with the Vijay Mallaya's UB Group, valued at over Rs. 8cr a year.
This deal puts Mahi at par with Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan in the endorsement space, just behind Aamir Khan, who early this year signed a record Rs 30-crore deal with telecom operator Etisalat. Dhoni is expected to directly endorse McDowell soda (which of course is the known surrogate for the same branded blended whiskey). But the integrated deal is expected to go beyond just the endorsements.
A large part of a celebrity's income is from endorsements, which of course come their way if they are in form or are producing movie hits. The interesting thing to note here is that younger children perhaps constitute the largest fan base for cricketers and Dhoni has got to have one of the largest fan followings. Given that, one could and should ask how much of what a celebrity endorses impacts a young mind. How appropriate then (morally) is it for cricketers to endorse alcohol?
The human resource development (HRD) ministry said on 25th November that under the right to education (RTE) act, admission procedures need to be "non-discriminatory, rational and transparent".
A ministry press release mentions that the schools need to adopt an admission procedure which is non-discriminatory, rational and transparent. The schools also are not to subject children and their parents to admission tests and interviews to socially profile children for an admission decision. We quote “With regard to admissions in class I (or pre-primary class as the case may be) under section 12(1) of the RTE Act in unaided and 'specified category' schools, schools shall follow a system of random selection out of the applications received from children belonging to disadvantaged groups and weaker sections for filling the pre-determined number of seats in that class, which should not be not less than 25 percent of the strength of the class”.
Each school (unaided or specified category) is required to formulate a polity under which the admissions take place for the remaining 75% of the seats.
The release also mentioned "This policy should include criteria for categorization of applicants in terms of the objectives of the school on a rational, reasonable and just basis. There shall be no profiling of the child based on parental educational qualifications. The policy should be placed by the school in the public domain, given wide publicity and explicitly seated in the school prospectus”.
Part of this regulation is what Mt. Carmel school at Anand Niketan violated, and thus got pulled up by the authorities as we mentioned in our previous post.