Championing the cause : C K Mathew, Principal Secretary of Education, Government of Rajasthan

 What will be the character of REI, will it remain as a programme within the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), fulfilling the gaps in SSA or will REI emerge as a totally independent programme of the Rajasthan government?

The REI as you know started with the discussions the Chief Minister had in Davos in January 2005 in World Economic Summit (WES). Presently, the REI has a separate identity, which is putting it at a level much beyond what the usual SSA or secondary school system would provide. REI is looking at a unique combination and partnership of public government sector, the private sector and the civic society and community.

We have also decided that we would look at the pilot projects. We cannot think of covering 75000 to 80000 schools in the state. It has to be pilot because public and private sector cannot work together over such a large area.

Thirdly we have decided that these pilot models will be successfully demonstrated and then only we will think of up scaling-up. These pilots will have to be tested against the overall objectives of education for all the factors like retention, dropout, girl child education etc. We have adopted a large number of schools within the REI, which are in the secondary set up. So REI has its unique identity. It will cover certain areas of secondary and certain areas of elementary education and right through out look at the key objectives of the learning capabilities of teacher performance, teacher training, and capacity building.

How are you planning to sustain REI’s ICT interventions in rural areas where there are either regular power cuts or no power at all?

There are certain infrastructure facilities that is dependent upon let us say power, if you put up a computer in an area where power does not exit, there is no point in doing it. But again you have to bring the benefits of information and communication technology to the rural areas too. Hence we are trying out different mix of technologies for example in rural schools where there is no power, we are looking at solar panels. We will have the alternative energy resources for powering computers. So we are not just concentrating in schools that have preset ICT labs, we are also working in schools in rural areas that are still struggling with the lack of basic infrastructure. We realize that these alternatives are not cost effective. Solar panels costs almost a lakh (100000 USD) for a unit. But we have to bring the benefits of the ICT and elements of new thoughts in these areas and even if it cost a little more we cannot exclude those areas from the developmental process. So we are exploring this mix of technology options.

You mentioned in the meeting that REI is based on a very loose partnership, what is the government doing to strengthen this partnership? Do the partners have the common vision? Are you trying to build up sort of a common vision for the partners and cementing these partnerships?

Let me explain the existing structure of partnership of REI first. There are three umbrella kind of agreements that are on the top of the structure; with Global e-Schools Initiatives (GeSCI) and Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and with the World Economic Forum, along with the partnerships description documents between the four partners. So all along it has been a large umbrella agreement and within that agreement there were nine separate MoUs. Presently, we have given to all the partners a document that gives a clear vision along with a copy of partnership description.

The purpose of the partners meeting was to let people know of the partnership framework by studying our partnership document, and then allow people to raise issues. As I promised in the meeting that in the next two months we will sit with each and every of those MoU partners, chalk-out a programme, sort out the area of coverage, bring a calendar into place, what are the milestones as we go ahead, in next two to three years what we intend to do, what are the final outcome and that outcome should match with the overall objective of Education For All (EFA). So now we are taking – a halt, looking at all these MoUs in detail, discuss with the partners and sorting out the problems of implementation.

How are you engaging the teachers and the local community in this initiative?

We have a three-pronged strategy. First strategy is that the government’s role, the government