Communications officer Esther Williams visited schools in one of the poorest parts of India
I have just returned from a trip to India, as part of the Global Campaign for Education, to see how the country is doing in terms of achieving Millennium Development Goal two: to ensure that all children complete a full course of quality primary schooling by 2015.
With me on the trip were two pupils, aged 15 and 16, and two teachers from Bristol Brunel Academy, and Kerry McCarthy MP, parliamentary private secretary to international development minister, Douglas Alexander MP.
We visited World Vision projects in Mewat, a rural area just over an hour’s drive from Delhi, where 62% of the community live on less than $1 a day.
Most girls do not go to school beyond the age of ten and are married between 13 and 16 years. Children in the community – girls in particular – face two main challenges in completing primary education. The local Meo Muslim tradition of women staying indoors is still prevalent and strong. Secondly, teacher motivation in the community is low; many teachers live outside the village and turn up late for classes.
We spoke to village families who believe that even if their children do stay on in school, there is no guarantee of an economic future for them as the quality of teaching is so poor.
We stayed in Gurgaon, a thriving and dynamic area of north India an hour away from the villages we visited. With its impressive infrastructure, Gurgaon represents the emerging ‘global India’.
But in this huge nation of more than a billion people, poverty remains on a staggering scale. DFID estimates that nearly half of all Indian children are malnourished – a far higher level than in most of sub-Saharan Africa – and more than 50 million Indian children fail to attend primary school regularly.
Without success in India the world will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and unless all children are in school by 2009, including those in the remote villages like Mewat, whose stories seldom get told, India will fail to meet the Millennium Development Goal for education.