New Delhi,(IANS) National Advisory Council chairperson Sonia Gandhi Wednesday expressed concern over teacher absenteeism in government schools in rural areas and said they should make efforts to reach the level of state-run Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs).
"Why are other government schools not as good? One-fourth the teachers in 10+2 rural schools remain absent. Admissions take place in good numbers but children who leave studies midway are sizeable," Gandhi said at a function here, launching 31 new JNV buildings across the country via video conferencing.
She said all children had equal right to education and that other government schools should also meet the challenge of providing quality education to all children.
Lauding JNVs, which are residential schools from Class 6-12, she said they had been largely successful in attaining their objectives of providing quality education to talented children from predominantly rural areas.
Gandhi said education in JNVs should meet the requirements of the changing times.
Pointing out that children belonging to weaker sections were often not able to complete their education, she said scholarship schemes of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government should reach them.
Sonia Gandhi, who is also Congress president, said that her late husband and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was concerned about education of children belonging to families from weaker sections.
She said JNVs were Rajiv Gandhi's vision and 693 of such schools were providing education to over two lakh children. "Children in rural areas are getting good education and are imbibing values of social service and patriotism. The children (of JNVs) go to institutions of higher learning," she said.
Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said that the first two JNVs were started in 1985-86 and the government had planned to open a JNV in each district of the country.
He said that 78 percent of children in JNVs were from rural areas and 74 percent were from families where the father's annual income was below Rs.48,000. He said 40 percent of students were from families where mothers were illiterate.
"Children from these schools have reached heights. The schools have recognised talent in villages," he said.
Sibal also took a dig at his critics who have often accused him of acting in a hurry.
He said that Rajiv Gandhi had in 1985 said that all children should be provided education and that his ministry cannot be faulted to be in a hurry to reach a goal that could not be attained in the last 25 years.
Sibal added that the government planned to open JNVs dedicated to sports, culture and vocational education as well.
Manoj Singh, commissioner of the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, said that nearly 4,500 children from JNVs get selected into engineering and medical courses and civil services every year.
He said 147 JNV students were selected in IITs and 3,286 in engineering colleges in 2009-10.
The JNVs that were inaugurated Wednesday are spread across various states, including Mizoram, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Haryana.
The National Policy on Education, 1986, envisaged setting up of navodaya vidyalayas with an aim to provide excellence in education coupled with equity and social justice.