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  • WB loans India $500 mn for elementary education

    The multi-million dollar credit will fund the requisite infrastructure for India’s acclaimed universal education mission and the training and payment of teachers. But, are more funds what the programme really needs?

    India’s much-touted universal elementary education programme has received a fresh injection of funds with the World Bank announcing $500 million credit for the programme. The money for the nationally-run Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA)(Education For All Campaign) will be pooled with funds provided by the Government of India, the various states, the European Commission and the United Kingdom.

    The SSA aims to reduce the number of children out of school by at least nine million, narrow gender and social gaps and improve the quality of education. The total project cost is $3.5 billion for three-and-a-half years.

    “When it comes to children not having access to basic education, even in a country as large as India, one child is one too many,” says Michael Carter, the World Bank’s country director for India.

    The $500 million credit will specifically fund the construction and extension of primary and upper primary schools, provision of training in social mobilisation and educational management, and payment of teachers’ salaries.

    According to a World Bank press release India has made remarkable progress in education, as evidenced by the decline in the number of out-of-school children between the ages of 6 and 14, from 39 million in 1999 to 25 million in 2003. This has also been acknowledged in Unicef’s ‘State of the World’s Children 2003’. However, India still accounts for one-quarter of the world’s 104 million out-of-school children.

    The SSA is a coordinated effort by the central government, the Indian states, districts and civil society to ensure that all children between the ages of 6 and 14 eventually receive eight years of education.

    “Girls, poor, rural and disabled children have benefited the most from the SSA,” says Kin Bing Wu, co-task team leader for the WB project. “This track record gives us confidence that the new project will be a major contributor both to meeting the government’s own goals for 2010 and to meeting the global MDG for education,” he adds.

    Surprisingly, however, funds have never been a problem with the SSA. In fact, data released by the union human resource development ministry in October 2003 shows that many state governments have not made optimum use of the funds allocated to them by the Centre for the project’s implementation.

    According to the ministry, five states -- including West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh -- have not used even half of their SSA outlay for 2002-2003.

    Given this, the size of the World Bank’s most recent financial donation begs the question: are more funds or better implementation and stricter norms what is needed to ensure that every child gets an elementary education.

    Source: www.ptinews.com, April 21, 2004

    www.hindustantimes, April 21, 2004

    www.indolink.com, April 21, 2004

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