The UNESCO, in its Education for all Global Monitoring Report in 2007, has estimated that there were 13.5 million children in the age group of six to 13 years out of school in the country. It conducted a nationwide sample survey commissioned by the Government under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).
It is to point that the number of out-of-school children was halved to 13.5 million in 2005 from 25 million in 2002. Ironically, Muslim students topped the list among these dropouts with 10 per cent followed by 9.5 of Scheduled Tribes and 8.2 per cent for Scheduled Castes. The dropout rate among the backward class children was at 6.9 per cent and 3.7 per cent among the remaining social groups. This all was informed by the Minister of State for Human Resources Development D Puarandeswari in a written reply to Rajya Sabha on December 11.
The minister said a multi-pronged approach had been adopted under SSA for reducing drop out rates. One set of interventions related to strengthening the school and improving the quality of education through improving the school infrastructure, recruitment of additional teachers, annual school grants, regular training of teachers.
The SSA also aimed at community support, flexible schooling for drop out or older children, and to promote education among the girls and children from disadvantaged sections of society or with special needs.
To a question regarding the mid-day meal programmes, Minister of State for HRD M A A Fatmi said the nutritional norm of 450 calories and 12 grams of protein was sought to be provided to children. The assistance for cooking in north-east region was Rs 1.80 per child by the Centre while the state government provided a contribution of Rs 0.20. For other states it was Rs 1.5 by the Centre and Rs 0.50 by the state governments.