Experiencing the complexity of the public education system

Aruni Joseph recounts her experience from a community visit with Azim Premji Foundation, which provided her insights on school enrolment, student absenteeism, and more, as part of the MA Education programme.

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The first semester of field practice with Bengaluru District Institute, Azim Premji Foundation, was an extension of our classroom learning, giving us an opportunity to experience the complexity of the public education system. 

Spanned across two weeks, it was broadly divided into school visits, community visits, and interaction with educational functionaries. We visited a few slum settlements in Bengaluru like Havadigare slum, Ambedkar colony, and Veerabhadra slum as part of the community visit. Mostly, migrant labourers from North Karnataka live here. Some families have been living here for more than 30 years. Children from these settlements were enrolled in the nearby government schools which we visited during the field immersion. 

Community visits gave exposure to the context of these children and the ever-increasing gap in creating an equitable society. These communities face many challenges in terms of living space, health, sanitation, and nutrition. Education takes a back seat for both parents and children. 

School enrolment itself is a big challenge as most children do not have birth certificates due to birth at home. We visited them along with volunteers from a partner organisation of Azim Premji Foundation that works for their entitlements like Aadhaar card, birth certificate and other basic necessities including sanitation and drinking water. 

There is frequent absenteeism among school-going children due to multiple reasons. In one of the slums, it was disturbing to see children of age group 2 – 3 playing on their own as their parents had gone to work. There was a 12-year-old girl who did not go to school as she had to take care of three siblings. For people in these settlements, it is a daily choice between earning for sustenance and sending children to school.

Image credits: Aruni Joseph

I have been living in Bengaluru since 2001. Never did I imagine that the city had such stark contrast in terms of education. During my daily commute to the University, I cross many international schools on the way. In the same city, there are children who struggle for basic education. These field experiences are very crucial for a student of education to have the right perspective towards the education of marginalised communities and education as a whole. 

About the Author

Aruni Joseph is a student of MA in Education (2021 – 23) at Azim Premji University.

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