She is enrolled in a private preschool along with her 7yr old sister where she spends most of her time of the day. She wears a uniform, carries her books in her school bag, and walks almost 2kms each day to reach the school. Her sister accompanies her through these barren farm lands they cross by foot twice a day. The classroom is a small room, with scanty light. The teacher scribbles on the black wall a few letters and has a wooden stick on the other. She repeats words and spellings written on the black walls along with the 40 other children in her class. Her interest in learning new words, writing and reading text books is largely because of the interest of her father in getting her educated. His father, a police service man, ensures that she completes her homework each day and develops her interest in her studies. She loves him! And he loves her too…
So I wondered how a parent who loves his child so much, can take a decision such as to marry her at this tender age. After speaking to the eldest sibling at Reena’s house, I found that her maternal Grandfather urged this marriage and no one from the family could raise a voice against. There were celebrations, food, guests, rituals everything like it was her birthday, described Reena.
Born as a girl in rural Rajasthan can lead to many trajectories in one’s life which may be determined solely by one’s gender. Her interest in studying further, in spite of a supportive father, seems to be a dream difficult to come true. However Early Education is important for her to become a confident individual, someone aware of her rights and options in life. But would she be able to continue up the education ladder remains a question.
So where are we today when we are taking steps towards strengthening the situation of education in India focusing on Early Education to begin with? Should there be stricter laws and policies ensuring rights of a younger child? Should there be harsher punishment if the violation is against a young child specifically below the age of 8yrs? Can we include child-rights awareness programs for parents and communities sending their children to ECE centers? The approach needs to be holistic in order to strengthen the situation of ECE in a developing nation like India which has to deal with multi-facet challenges at every level.