Constructive engagement with government and other stakeholders, such as, civil society organisations, community groups, leaders, and all those who could act as change agents, and aligning strategies with government plans are important for showcasing, adopting, and sustainability of an innovative intervention model.
NEG-FIRE believes that working on issues of shared priorities and identifying and engaging with reform champions in the government, with emphasis on regular dialogue, is a participatory means to bring about change in public policies and get them implemented in ways that would empower the marginalised.Such engagements are not a one-way approach of prescribing specific behavior to the government, people or to any other stakeholder,rather, it is interactive in nature, thus enabling people to be a part of the decision-making process.
The three key elements of our engagement with government and other stakeholders are:
- Sensitising communities - We work towards helping them understand the value of education and their rights regarding the same. We further motivate them to send their children to schools and invest in fulfilling the educational needs of their children.
- Evidence building and sharing of information- In order to persuade the government to change its policies, laws or implementation regarding the educational needs and rights of children from the most marginalised communities of India, we constantly try to improve our knowledge base through continuous research or evidence building.
- Networking and alliance building – It is essential to crystalise any prevalent issues and to further take tangible agenda for the purpose of engagement with the Government.
As our interventions are mainly with the Government Primary Schools and ICDS centres, the starting pointfor a comprehensive and effective engagement with government and other stakeholders has been operationalising the Right to Education Act, 2009 (for 6-14 yrs children) and existing/potential government initiatives on ICDS (for 3-6 yrs children).The Right to Education Act provides a good opportunity for plugging in implementation and policy gaps in primary education across groups in India.In recent years, we are intervening in the class-rooms by developing contextual Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MB-MLE) materials in 12 tribal languages being used in 7 states. There is a rising need to break through the homogenised and centralised approaches in education by promoting contextual pedagogies that can realise the learning potential of children from the marginal groups. Engaging with the government is one prominent mode through which these gaps can be made visible and decisions influenced.
The focus of our engagement with government and other stakeholders emerges from our research and documentation and innovative interventions that throw up issues for social action, at the local (block/ district), state and national levels. At the communitylevel, actions are focused mainly on generating awareness about the rising need for their children to be included in the education system so as to learn and become empowered individuals and helping the community to contribute to creation of innovative education models in their respective villages. We further work towards converting this awareness into actions and providing strong handholding to the community as they take their first steps towards change. Going up at the state level, efforts are directed mainly to scale up the existing voices through improved articulation and liaisoning with state government agencies for collaborative engagement. While scaling up the existing voices entails capacitating partners through trainings and workshops on various tools of engagement, liaisoning with state government agencies involves sharing of evidence/ research reports, face to face dialogues/meetings, etc.
At the national level, NEG-FIRE actively engages with National Right to Education (RTE) Forum, National Coalition for Education and other national networks in its efforts to amplifyand representthe voices from the margins. Currently, we are one of the Core Committee members of RTE Forum and State Representative of MP RTE Forum. Research/ evidence building along with national consultations/ conferences on issues impacting education of children from marginalised communities, looping in media partners, online social networking, etc. are also prominent modes of action.