Skills hang fire for alphabets they require


Basic education, the platform for running skilling program is missing

Skill-indiaSKILLED INDIA is a dream for now. Weaved out of policies’ aims and imitation of the developed nations, the weave lacks shape; it lacks yarn and lacks the prerequisites. We are trying to make hands write sentences when the mind does not know of alphabets. We are asking the legs to turn left when the minds knows not what directions are.

But how can youths decipher the skilled development program manuals out of an illiterate, uneducated childhood? The 70 per cent rural folk are asking for alphabets and what they get is skill development program manuals. Where are the basics? Spending over 17 years in the field of vocational training and livelihood, Mrinalini Kher says that maximum youth who have aspirations and desire to make something of their lives are girls and young married women and those who did not have even the
basics to avail the skill development opportunities.

Kher has been a part of Yuva Parivartan, an NGO that has been working for years to provide livelihood to underprivileged  youth, for almost two decades and transforming lives through honing the skills of hundreds all over India. Sharing her experiences she says, “The experience shows mentoring, counseling and personal rapport with the trainers, and finally total support and involvement of family is a sure route to success.”

Of late the government has rolled out a number of skill development programs to bring under its purview the favorable demography of India. However, this is not the first time that the government has taken an initiative to tap the human resources that is available in hinterlands. There are two sides to this coin of skill development. One aspect – the positive one – can well be seen on the website of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). The website boasts of laurels. The most recent being the eight medallions that team India won at the Worldskills competition held at Sau Paulo in Brazil. This apart, the government has introduced a number of schemes, commissions, scholarships and incentives to promote skill development for the welfare of the population.

These were facts and efforts from the managerial and policy levels that are mostly confined to the urban folks of the nation. Now, facts from the grassroots level – there are 300 million dropouts in schools every year of which 65 per cent are in the rural areas. “What courses can Yuva Parivartan offer to our rural youth, who constitute as much as 50 percent of the total youth  population, who reside in those pockets of the country where there are no industry, where infrastructure is defined by huts, makeshifts, two buses per day in  the name of transportation and if the numbers are not good enough the drives chooses to rest for the day,” asks Kher.All, including the Government, NGOs and the individuals working towards skill development, are trying to fix the tower top not noticing that the foundation itself is missing. Most organizations, public or private, only think of urban or semi urban areas while poor infrastructure and no industry culminates into low economic activity in these rural areas where mainly rain fed agricultural income is the only means of livelihood.

The very focal point is misguided. Government schools which are the foundation of skill development are in tatters. A very recent ruling by the Allahabad High Court that made it compulsory for government servants to send their children to government schools sparked a controversy across the country. On one hand where the Supreme Court has been moved to implement this ruling across India, the government servants are “furious” over the decision.

“This is a decision of its kind. This will hopefully improve the condition of government schools. Else, there is nothing, absolutely nothing that can be compared between private and government schools. Infrastructure is secondary, there is always a doubt whether the teachers will turn up or not,” said a government school principal on condition of anonymity.

Skill development has to start from early stage. Sharing her suggestions, Kher explains, “There is a need to spread awareness among parents on importance of skill education. Though things are changing, there is still a large chunk of population where the children and youth have to resist orthodox family views and social norms to take to skill development.”Kher further adds that there is a need to shift from degree-intensive education to skill-based education. “Introduction of compulsory vocational subjects from class eight in all schools, public and private is the need of the hour.” Similarly, the youth in the rural and semi-urban areas have lack of exposure to industrial nittygritties, have very less opportunity to attain education and marketable skills based on which any industry could absorb them. Their financial incapacity adds to their woes.

Means and schemes are all there, what is lacking is thoughtful and honest execution. Corrupt and lousy implementation of any scheme is our biggest weakness. Going by statistics, we find that our para-nursing beautician tailoring courses have nearly 80 to 90 per cent wage or self employment.

A pilot in hospitality has over 90 per cent job placements. Cottage industries and small scale industries can help the rural untouched corners to be a part of the economic growth of the country.

But all has to start early, from toddlers. Skills can be best imbibed when educational basis is strong enough. “If NGOs and government organizations or departments provide skill training followed by mentoring and guidance to prepare for workplace, the individual will for sure be an asset for the nation,” said Kher.These kids and youth need handholding approach to change our struggling to-get-skilled India into skilled India. Schools can tie up with local ITI’s, private institutes NGOs to help implement  the skill development programs. Introduce two to three variable models of vocational education to suit the geography, local needs and convenience of India’s diverse population, said Kher adding that the industry should provide residential and boarding facilities at a reasonable rate as most jobs are in informal sectors where migration is the only option.

Activists agree that there will be problems and difficulty at the initial level in allocating trainers; however, attractive salary structure, perks and congenial work environment can help overcome these initial hiccups.

However, the sad part is that all these schemes, policies and benefits fails to percolate down to those for whom it was actually introduced. Corruption eats it all. Locals across several villages allege that books, uniforms, mid-day meals and even stationeries are either sold off or never bought. The money is then distributed amongst the school staff and at times, actually most of the times; even senior administrative officials grab their share. Execution of India’s skill development programs is relying on a handful of corrupt staff, tattered infrastructure and basics-devoid youth. So how far will these cherries on the stale bread  maintain the beauty of the cake of skill development is something we need to be watchful of.

Sagarika Ranjan