“Only one third of the children in East Africa have acquired the expected basic skills at the required level.” A colleague once narrated an incident that took place in one of the schools where her organisation has a programme aimed at improving teachers’ pedagogy skills. This programme targets a small number of teachers in the early Grades by offering continuous on-the-job training to teachers, aimed at improving their basic teaching skills.
“Our responsibility doesn’t end when a young girl or boy walks through the doors of a classroom. In fact, it’s at that moment our greatest responsibilities begin.” For the first time since the world rallied around the idea of universal access to education, the global community is coming together to confront the reality that we’re still far from our goal of achieving quality education for all. Even as we have seen record numbers of children enter classrooms, education continues to be out of reach for many.
Absolute silence reigned over the cavernous hall in MoMA – New York’s Museum of Modern Art – which plays host to the Kravis Prize award ceremony. A mass of people waited to listen. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion as Henry Kravis made his comments, handed me the check and stepped off the dais. Now it was my turn. It was only at that moment, as I stood facing crowd, that the enormity and the significance of the award hit me. I was here representing Pratham, a vast network of young leaders throughout India who unselfishly strive to provide the country’s children with high quality education.
Despite progress made since the start of the millennium to refocus efforts on education, progress in education has been slow and uneven with government commitments wavering. The current state of education is nothing short of a global crisis: 67 million children remain out of primary school and resource mobilization to reach the 2015 targets has fallen short by over $16 billion. Just as alarming, yet rarely discussed, are the hundreds of millions of children enrolled in school but not learning.
I sat with a group of village women under a tree in the compound of a government primary school. Most of the women had children who were enrolled in this school. Many of these mothers had never been to school themselves. But they were interested in talking about children’s education in general and their children’s education in particular. We discussed many issues. What kind of education were children getting? Was it good enough? Why was it not better? How had the school been in the past and what was it like now?