On the one hand, the RTE Act, which was put into effect in April of this year has made giant steps towards enabling some of the eight million children who don't attend to begin going to school. But after Class 7, secondary schools start emptying out as parents either do not have money or do not prioritise education for their children. Aleya tells us that the boys start taking up manual labour jobs which earn them about Rs. 100 a day, and the girls either get married or start stitching classes.
Some students don't feel motivated to stay in school because of the lack of quality of the education. "I have put my own son in a private school," says Aleya, because the education in the government schools here isn't good. The teachers don't pay attention to the students, during the rains the schools are closed. Even government school teachers put their own children in private school."
"Another problem is language," says Aleya. "My son goes to a private school, and I pay Rs.160 per month. He has been taught English since kindergarten. But in public schools, they are only taught the alphabet from Class 1. At home they speak Bengali, so they don't understand what goes on in school." When we asked her how they manage to pass, she says that they memorize and learn by rote, and besides they are often promoted to the next class despite failing, because of lack of space.
Aleya hopes that the RTE Act will soon include free secondary school as well. It is not that these children don't want to keep studying, it is because they have no choice.
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