Our education eco-system is superficially constructed. Only the skimpy part, the cash-exchange surface is cared about. Yes, what do we care for when we talk of education? It is the money part, the immediate cash-exchange we seem to care about.
Otherwise, who cares for the children in their early years? As per the Global Nutrition Report 2018 – the reality is that a third of the world’s stunted children under five, an estimated 46.6 million who have low height for age – live in India!
Anybody cares? Anybody speaks out? No,not at all! What does this mean for the education policy makers? Nothing, nothing at all! A quarter of the children display wasting (that is, low weight for height) as well! As the Report reveals, there are wide variations in the stunting levels in various parts of the country. The central and northern states show a high level, respectively 30% to 40% and less than 20% in almost the entire south.
What does reality also mean for other aspects of the children’s health and well-being, the mothers, the food and other needs, the access to these realities, children development institutions, child welfare services and a whole range of services that could make an enormous difference to the future of children?
An education eco-system that really shows any political commitment must start with a range of issues. Our education reform policies must cover to tackle the problem at its roots. Every LKG, UKG School must take care of some of these issues. They must have to care for the feeding and health issues. Any special needs must be attended to. Food and freedom go together. Also, the maternal situation, the mother’s awareness and also the age of marriage and the rights of the ‘girl’ mothers is a grim reality in many backward areas and much more are at stake.
Any genuinely conceived education process must start with these ground realities. We talk about the private sector in education. This at the moment is only concerned with the money-making part! Not taking any more responsibilities! Education Ministers must be more responsible individuals. Education must have more and more women-run and women-centric institutions. In some of the European countries all the pre-school education, why even at the primary levels are manned exclusively by women.
World-wide the issue is now getting attention. UN agencies, UNICEF and World Food Programmes are all at it. There are also many, even thousands of NGOs and social service agencies engaged in providing relief at many levels.
But the coverage is not yet full. The malnutrition and stunted children are the twin challenges to our century’s education issues. Malnutrition kills – some estimated one million deaths every year. Malnutrition wears down the immune system. So, even a common cold could cause the death. Now, the distribution of the packaged food in the form of ‘Plumpy Nut’, a packet butter, dried milk, oil and sugar fortified with extra vitamins and calories introduced in 1996 is said to be very effective. One or two packets a day can restore a child’s health in a few months. Right now, the severe malnutrition has become a big challenge in African countries; Sahel countries face a grim challenge. Yemen, South Sudan-entirely man-made crises, war and drought are the causes. The World Food programmes and UNICEF have the chief responsibility to feed the children.
Exposure to air pollution causes 7 million deaths worldwide every year and costs an estimated $5.11 trillion in welfare losses globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a report at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice, Poland.
As for India, we can’t be left without an action plan. What is happening in India? This raises many tough questions. Our education policies are not drawn up with any depth of knowledge of the issues and also any commitment. We have become a talking nation; cheap election rhetoric seems to satisfy many of the thoughtful people even. See the silence in the policy making capital -Delhi – itself suffers from lack of any serious ideas of pollution in the capital. Then where is the time for the stake holders, the occupants of the Lutyen’s bungalow zone!
So, we can’t do more than point out some bitter truths and realities!