1500 Gujjar-Bakarwal OoSC enrolled in Govt schools in Kishtwar

A school covered under ‘My School My Pride’ in Kishtwar.
A school covered under ‘My School My Pride’ in Kishtwar.

Excelsior Correspondent

KISHTWAR, Feb 1: Once grappling with a significant number of Out-of-School Children (OoSC), the success of the first phase of the Back to School initiative has played a pivotal role in elevating the literacy rate among the Scheduled Tribe community in the district Kishtwar.
In 2021, a survey conducted by SAMAGRA Shiksha Jammu and Kashmir identified thousands of OoSC across J&K UT, including 2,469 in district Kishtwar, marking the highest number in the Jammu Division. As the problem demanded urgent attention, the district administration Kishtwar took proactive steps to bring back all the OoSC to school.
In December 2022, verification of 2469 Out-of-School Children (OoSC) revealed that approximately 1600 students in the age group of 6-14 years were not attending school. The Gujjar and Bakarwal population were more susceptible to low enrollment due to relatively poor socio-economic conditions, migratory nature, dependence on livestock, and less emphasis on higher education because of early marriage etc.
To enroll these students, the Back to School initiative was launched.
A 3-month Bridge Course, initiated with the help of DIET Kishtwar in January 2023, prepared these students to join schools. Following the completion of the Bridge Course, admissions for 1376 Out-of-School Students were done in various Government Schools, with 95 percent belonging to the ST Gujjar and Bakarwal population.
Additionally, School Management Committees were restructured in collaboration with the India Education Collective NGO. For the restructured committees, parents took on the role of Chairmen and became active partners with the Education Department for School Improvement.
A visible result of these activated School Management Committees was the “My School My Pride” campaign, a bottom-up initiative culminating on January 26.
The School Education Department, led by CEO Prahlad Bhagat, played a proactive role and launched commendable incentives for Out-of-School children, including additional Dhok seasonal centers, winter ST centers, stipends, and zonal level libraries in schools.
Overall, due to the Back to School initiative, major indicators in Kishtwar district have improved. The Gross Enrollment Ratio has jumped from 89% to 97.49%, while the dropout rate has decreased from 11% to 2.5 percent.
The total number of Out-of-School Students has been reduced from 1600 to only 57 in the district, with an improved transition rate of 98%. Since Gujjar and Bakarwal are nomadic groups, the number of seasonal units increased from 79 to 121 in 2023. Additionally, 80 new winter ST centers were opened, and a stipend of Rs 500 is provided to each ST student as an incentive.
In Back to School 2.0, additional 200 OoSC have been identified for enrollment in schools in January 2024 for 100 percent Saturation.