For the past three months, we proposed ideas in the sectors of education, gender, and livelihood to bring about the rural reset. In this, and the last piece of the Rural Reset Series, we want to stress the importance of partnerships and collaboration to shape a new reality in rural India. Check out our LinkedIn page every Wednesday as we delve further into the below-mentioned topics. 

“All the SDGs come down to education…” — Malala Yousafzai

The UN states that “Quality education is the foundation of sustainable development, and therefore of the Sustainable Development Goals. As a policy intervention, education is a force multiplier that enables self-reliance, boosts economic growth by enhancing skills, and improves people’s lives by opening up opportunities for better livelihoods.” 

Globally, the literacy rate stands at 83.2% as per data by the UN, however, there are presently 63.67 million children out of school. There are several barriers that interfere with children’s access to education which include factors such as race, class, caste, gender, and disability. In addition to this, the COVID pandemic has had severe implications for educational institutions across the globe and halted many advances made in the education sector. 

The need of the hour is to develop robust educational systems to ensure the continuation of children’s education. The 2020 educational crisis has had one positive impact, it has encouraged organizations across the globe to come together, develop strategies and systems based on existing research and resources to counter the present education crisis. Moving forward, it is essential that partnerships are created between various stakeholders such as governments, corporates, and civil society organizations to find effective solutions to the challenges in providing quality education to all. 

The Challenge with Education in India 

Over the years, India has made several strides in education. However, in terms of achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 4, we still have a long way to go. One of the main goals under SDG 4 is providing free and quality education to all children and young adults. In India, the present adult literacy rate stands at 74.04%, with the rural education adult literacy rate at 68.91%. There are many barriers in access to education especially in rural areas where the schools lack basic infrastructure and the teachers are hugely overburdened.

Secondly, as per the data by the UN, the gross enrolment rate for higher education in the country is 25.8% which is very low. A study by the National Sample Survey, 2014 reveals that as many as 44.81 million Indian undergraduate students between the ages of 18 to 24 are too poor to pursue higher education. Following their studies, most students immediately engage with economic activities to bring income to their families. Furthermore, there is a gender divide in access to education which is represented in the data where 21% of female respondents are engaged in domestic work as opposed to their male counterparts of which only 4% are engaged in domestic work. It is also essential to note that the quality of education is also an issue that influences the low enrolment rate.

Partnerships in Education 

To address the educational crisis, a combined force is necessary. Leveraging the power and the resources available from various sectors like the government, civil society, private institutions, and non-profits is essential. There are several ways in which these entities can provide support to educational institutions to improve the quality of education in local regions. Given the present predicament, and the shift to an online medium, an important type of educational partnership could potentially be to provide edtech support in rural areas in the country. 

Similarly, an attempt needs to be made to rethink the manner in which we look at education.  We tend to have a unidimensional approach to education, which involves sitting in classes with textbooks or writing exams. However, education as an experience should have several layers that allow for practical engagement and overall growth. A creative approach to education can also be used as a medium to address broader socio-structural issues and take an intersectionality approach to development interventions. 

Education and Gender are two focus goals of Indivillage and hence our Girls in Tech program strives to achieve the intersectionality approach. Across the globe, female participation in areas such as technology and science is hugely limited. Long-standing gender norms and roles in society curtails women’s participation in this sector. To address this gap, we have partnered with local government schools in our locations/communities in Yemmiganur and Raichur to introduce the Girls in Tech program. The curriculum for this program has been developed by the global NGO Girls Who Code. Women from our livelihood centers who have been trained on the technical platforms, act as facilitators to the program that introduces coding as a skill to rural women. 

Secondly, it is important to recognise that education is not something that is only restricted to schools or universities, we should always inspire ourselves to constantly learn and develop our skills in collaboration with those around us. At IndiVillage, we have adopted this philosophy and we apply it to all our interventions, especially our education-based.

Our Social Internship Program allows for young professionals, university students, and fellows to engage in a 6-week micro-project, to train in project management for the social sector. 

An online model was developed which provided an opportunity for engagement despite challenges. Interns contributed to various verticals of the foundation’s operations, thereby gaining practical experience to supplement theoretical education that they had received. The IndiVillage internship model is an urban-rural partnership which proved to be a beneficial experience for both the interns and the local community alike. 

During the pandemic, IndiVillage also relaunched Samvāda: Dialogue for Impact on an online open platform for organizations to share their work, learn, ideate, and network with other impact organizations across India. Following the global crisis, Samvāda specially focused on rural-based nonprofits to share knowledge and resources and collectively respond to the diverse challenges posed by Covid-19.  This platform helps institutions learn from one another and collaborate on schemes to get closer to achieve UN sustainable development goals.

Education is the key to achieving the developmental objectives that we have set out for ourselves. Access to education allows for an individual to realize their full potential and inevitably also helps in the creation of human capital, which has a positive impact on the economic development of the country as a whole. It is imperative to understand that education is all-encompassing in nature and can be in any form. As the world is set to bounce back from the crisis, the message that we send out as a social organization is that we all have the same goal and partnering with one another is the way to achieve them faster.

Written By: Nikita Chatterjee

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