After being on the verge of having to close down our successful NFE primary schools, we are happy to announce that the Government of India has officially legalized them as Special Training Centers. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, implemented by the Indian Government in 2009, has demonstrated progress in the rights based approach to ensuring education for all. However, under this act, one-size-fits-all criteria were set out for what constitutes a “school” such as, number of classrooms, toilet facilities, and level of teacher qualification. Our primary schools, which do not meet these criterion but deliver a top quality education to over 5,000 of the region’s most impoverished children every year, faced closure.
It took Seva Mandir over 2 years of hard work to save the program and ensure the continued education of the children in our work area. We carried out a study that found that 49% of children are still out of school in the remote areas where Seva Mandir schools operate. We lobbied intensely, arguing that despite the Government’s promise of education for all, Seva Mandir is vital and necessary until the State can deliver on that promise. Finally, just days ago, the Government provided us a chance to prove our work. 4 teams of Government officials conducted random surprise checkups on 11 of our NFE centers. 10 out of 11 were open, and after full day observations the officials concluded that the learning levels in our schools were significantly above those found in Government schools. Furthermore, the officials praised our schools’ efficiency, and recognized the fact that we are doing more than Government with fewer inputs. As a result of their experience on the ground, and after vetting our curriculum and teaching material, the State of Rajasthan has legalized our NFEs by according them the status of Special Training Centers (STCs). In concluding meetings, officials resolved that if society was so accepting of the program then it was important for the government to follow suit. As our NFE schools are now legitimized we can continue to provide the neediest and most marginalized children with a quality education. This is a tremendous achievement for Seva Mandir and all of our wonderful supporters. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this success, and for your continued faith in the good work that Seva Mandir does!