New Delhi, Apr 16: If children cannot be brought to school, school can be brought to them.
This has been the guiding principle behind the launching of the 'School on Boat' programme for children of migrant fishermen families in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.
The district authorities, who started the scheme in 2004, have already enrolled 92 children out of 238 in the age group of 5-15 of 180 odd fishermen families in Uppalanka Mandi area.
This community was identified as one of the most 'difficult to reach' in the survey conducted under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan'(SSA), the ambitious mission for universalisation of education launched in 2001-2002.
The district authorities thought of an innovative way to get to the children from this community. An attractively decorated boat, with play material and a motivator-cum-instructor, was built by the district authorities to go bring the children to the school who used to loiter around canal bank and those who were helping their parents on their 'Donelu boats'.
Initically only very young children joined the school on boat.
They played, listened to stories, sang local songs and danced.
Gradually, parents allowed their older children too to board the boat for a few a hours. Sensing some positive response, the authorities built a thatched hut on the bank of the canal where they taught basic letters and numbers to already motivated children.
The hours at the thatched hut were used to orient and prepare the children with the objective of enrolling them in residential Bridge Course and then in regular formal schools.
After three months of orientation, a group of 'readied children' were enrolled in nearby Residential Bridge Course when children themselves and their parents were ready for it.
Out of the identified children from the '180 Boat families', 36 of them are attending the School on Boat, 20 have enrolled in the local elementary schools, 17 girls have entered the residential formal schools and 19 are attending the residential bridge school.
Though 146 children are still unattended, the authorities hope that the approach if sustained would bring in the rest of children too.
According to a survey carried for the SSA, there are 542665 out of school children in Andhra Pradesh.
The SSA covers the entire country. The programme seeks to open new schools in habitations which do not have any educational facilities.