School absenteeism is a serious problem that almost every school experiences. While different educational policies have been given importance in making the all-round development of the children with effective school timetable and have adopted different strategies to address the issue, a portion of the student population still stays away from school without any genuine reason. It is needless to say that chronic absenteeism is associated with lower achievement in basic reading, writing and arithmetic and it also lowers socio-emotional traits.
In the modern child-centred education, various innovative methods and techniques are used to make learning interesting and attract the attention of the learners. Today, along with scholastic activities, non-scholastics activities are incorporated into the curriculum to best utilise the students’ creativity. It also gives training on how to best utilise their leisure time. However, absenteeism as a traditional trend still exists. In some remote places, the rate of absenteeism is very high.
Recently, an initiative called Gunotsav was undertaken by the Government of Assam, inspired by the Government of Gujarat. Its second phase got recently completed this month. In Gunotsav, co-scholastic activities, availability and utilisation of school infrastructure and other facilities and community participation have been included for evaluation of schools. Apart from these criteria, the students’ attendance is considered as a major determinant in school evaluation. The magnitude of absenteeism is so high that after organising several parent-teacher meetings, especially for Gunotsav, a portion of the student population did not attend schools during those days in the stipulated time. But we were amazed to see the participation of the community members in bringing the students back to school.
This writer has personally experienced some community members who actively took part in the schools’ different activities, including the responsibility of the absentees on the onset of Gunotsav. A primary school teacher of Jorhat district of Assam says, “We try our best to teach the students how to read, write and do basic mathematical operations which are considered as a pillar for higher level of learning. We organise parent-teacher meeting from time to time to address the disadvantage of absenteeism and report the students’ performances. But on the day of Gunotsav, we noticed that some students were absent and as some community members were present in the school, we informed them. As we had organised several meetings to highlight the importance of students’ attendance they immediately went to the students’ place and brought them back to school. It will definitely effect out school’s overall performance in a positive way.”
This signifies the importance of community involvement in running a social organisation i.e. school. The community has to play a crucial role in the good functioning of a school. Its contribution is of great value. This writer feels that the participation of community members should be maintained properly with the same spirit. To conclude, I would like to restate my strong recommendation towards school and community participation to reduce the problem of school absenteeism. Assam Human Development Report (2014) also reads – “Going to and staying in school matters.”