“I watched a child performing household chores at the tender age of three or four”

It was a wintry day, part of a week studying a 1600 million-year-old geological structure in the midst of Jharkhand state in India, which is widely known for its flourishing industries, availability of coals and a hot-spot of manufacturing units of steel and other vital assets.

In what turned out to be an emotional episode of deep reflections, there in the remote region, I reflected on the grim reality of the vast disconnect between development and ignorance – visible in the 21st-century achievements in the fields of economy, science and technology and dynamic globalisation.

It provoked me to think: are we actually in the path of development and leaving no one behind? Going by the statistics, blindly we can say yes.

But what I saw all throughout the journey is that developments are either too slow or unequal among the hierarchy of societal structure and thus not satisfactory, leading to poverty, malnutrition and under-development.

One such episode, as seen in the photographs, was when I came across three small kids. Two of them who were playing with stones on the river banks of Subarnarekha river, taking in nature’s best sights.

Round their tiny hands were wrapped banana leaves to make a toy watch, just to get the feelings of being happy of having a watch. One was performing household chores at the tender age of three or four.

The reality should have been different – children with books in schools. 

Education is a basic need for everyone and the need for education is an issue of extreme importance for which young change-makers from around the world took over and started the ‘#UpForSchool campaign.

Spanning over a period of one year, its goal was to make sure that youth voices are heard at the United Nations and that world leaders pay attention to prioritise Education for All and finish the unfinished business of providing achieving quality and inclusive education for all.

The remarkable campaign proved to be a huge success, taking a lead from superstar Shakira and UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown at the UN General Assembly held last September.

The worldwide campaign proved to be history’s largest education petition campaign, covering more than 10 million signatures across the globe.

Education shouldn’t be an exclusive privilege for the ones who can afford so-called world-class schools. Education is that wonderful institution which prepares a human being to face the challenges of the dynamic and changing world and to be fit to lead a dignified life and put forward his or her skills in nation-building.

It is possible to provide basic education in every possible mode – formal or informal. What it requires is firm determination to make it happen and eliminate the existing loopholes.

Do not forget there are still 59 million children out of schools who are missing out on their rights and privileges. It is the responsibility of the learned ones to bring them into the framework of all-round development.

As the New Year is already behind us, and with the beginning of the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals, the efforts must project towards a successful ending – leaving no one behind, with determined and positive efforts coming from each and every citizen of the nation.

This can and will lead to a beautiful world tomorrow, where we can happily anticipate to see every child with bags packed with books going to schools, where gender equality is widely accepted in a well-structured society with prevailing peace and justice, and the darkness of fear, insecurity and under-development is eliminated.

To say that India didn’t excel in achieving the success parameters of the MDGs would be not a positive response to the efforts which the governments in the centre and the state have had been doing in reducing poverty, providing universal and quality education to all, eliminating malnutrition etc.

But incompetency in the policy-making levels of the higher echelon, mixed with administrative faults and visible ignorance, make it a worrisome issue which cannot be neglected.

India is a developing nation, projected to be a nation with a diverse multitude of young people coming from different regions with different cultures, backgrounds, traditions and aspirations, creating one of the most spectacular nations of the 21st century.

It is indeed a Herculean task to keep an eye on the success and failure of its efforts – to see if all of its promised policies are reaching the lowest strata of society and the benefits are being enjoyed by each and every one.

It is imperative for the authorities to improve the existing facilities of monitoring mechanisms, such that in the remote areas, one side of the not-so-wonderful reality is also visible and thus well taken care of.

In what could be a game-changer in India’s developmental activities, recently it has been certified that Kerala – the place of pristine backwaters in “God’s own country” – becomes the first state that is providing a 100% primary education.

This is no less than wonderful news and should only inspire other states to learn the model of development which the Kerala government tried to implement and customise according to the needs of geography, diversity and societal fabric.

Indian Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi said: “Education is the key to bring transparency and accountability in society. It is our collective responsibility to get our children educated. The vision I have is to see every single child to be in school, in a playground.”

Can we all take the lead and have a similar dream too and be the change in making a difference? The onus is on us and we can!

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