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Supporting education of poor families: NGOs, kind hearted persons lack coordination

By NS Venkataraman*

Nandini Voice for the Deprived, a not for profit organisation based in Chennai, conducted an opinion survey amongst the families belonging to lower income group, about the problems they face in educating their children at various levels.
The findings of the study are given below:
1. There is high level of realisation amongst the parents in the poor families that the only way of ensuring bright future for the sons and daughters is to provide them the best of education and particularly in fields which have high prospects for well paid jobs. Such level of interest in educating the children amongst the low income families is a very significant and progressive development , that should be recognised by the society.
2. There is a general perspective that providing education to the children in private educational institutions could be far more advantageous than admitting them in government owned institutions . This view is further explained stating that there is greater discipline and commitment to provide quality education to the students in the private institutions , much more than the government institutions.
3. Most of the families who send their children to government institutions confess that they do so mainly due to the fact that they cannot afford to pay the fees demanded by the private institutions. According to them, the decision to send the students to government institutions is due to compulsion rather than choice.
Some parents also said that government institutions at school and college level are not located near their place of living and at affordable distance with adequate transportation facilities. Therefore, they are forced to send the children to the private institutions that are nearby , particularly in the case of lower classes, even though they find it difficult to pay the fees demanded.
4. There is preference for admitting the students in English medium classes , as it is believed that the development of communication skill in English language would boost the job prospects and also enable them to take up jobs abroad later.
5. While the families sending their children to government institutions have no particular problem in economic terms , those sending children to private institutions find it hard to get the money to pay the fees etc. This is due to the fact that the fees charged by the private institutions are so high, that they are beyond the affordability of low income families.
6. Apart from charging high fees, most of the private institutions insist that the entire fees should be paid at the beginning of the academic year. They do not accept payment in instalments , which is creating problem for low income families
7. In significant number of low income families, menfolk have become liquor addicts and fritter away their income in buying liquor and other consequent bad habits. In such conditions, the responsibility of running the family are increasingly becoming that of women , who are very keen that atleast their children should have good habits and occupy good positions in life. When admitting these children to private schools, with their husband being liquor addicts, many women run from pillar to post to collect some donation from NGOs and kind hearted persons.
Even low income families, where menfolk remain responsible, are forced to seek donations or loans to pay the fees demanded by private institutions.
However, such NGOs and kind hearted persons are few and far between in number.
8. Many NGOs and kind hearted persons who wish to provide fund support insist that they would pay in the form of cheque or DD only in the name of educational institutions and not by cash. This is to ensure that the funds would not be misused. However, several private institutions refuse to accept cheque or demand draft but insist only on cash payment. This creates problem for low income families.
9. There is no coordination between the NGOs and kind hearted persons in extending fund support for education for poor families and most of them seem to be operating in isolation. In such conditions, low income families really do not know as to from where they would get the support and often go to wrong places and return back disappointed.
10. Educational loan from banks are mostly not available for poor families since many bank managers insist that security should be provided for the loan taken and many low income families have no worthwhile security to offer.
11. One college student from low income family wryly said, “the government run schools and colleges are only meant for low income families and most of such families may not know where their next meal would come from. However, family members of ministers, top bureaucrats and government officials do not send their children to government run educational institutions and they are sent only to private institutions." This situation speaks volume about the ground realities.
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*Trustee, Nandini Voice For The Deprived, Chennai

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