Non-formal education as a new strategy

Shreeram Lamichhane

The Human Development Report (2003) shows that Nepal’s HDI is 143rd as judged against the development indicators. At least 42 per cent of the total population live with one dollar or less a day. This section of people are unable to provide basic education to their children and face untimely death as a result of lack of basic medical facilities. Other stumbling blocks such as isolation from the mainstream development process and marginalisation by the dominant elite further aggravate their wretchedness. Afflicted with such ailments, the prospect for making exemplary progress in all spheres of life simply by giving priority to physical development stands very slim. Therefore, a sharp focus on human development seems inarguably pivotal.

The relevance of poverty alleviation holds immense value. For this the Tenth Plan has placed strong emphasis on this programme by envisaging various schemes. Emphasis on such anti-poverty initiatives draws an ardent applause. However, it is equally sensible to activate beneficial processes to translate such initiatives into reality. Non-formal education structured with relevant contents and methods tend to enable people by unleashing their abilities to fight against poverty. To this end, a conceptual premise of non-formal education as a strategy for poverty alleviation is required.

The major determinants of poverty include low income and low level of human capabilities. These determinants tend to persist on account of deprivation having its interactive linkages with uneven economic opportunities, unrealised political freedom, exploitative social behaviour, vulnerability, isolation and powerlessness. Emancipation from this reality seems possible by dispelling all these elements through empowerment and enfranchisement.

Creative, critical, analytical and productive capabilities stand as a function of the level of critical awareness of the people regarding existential factors, comprehensiveness in one’s own analytical perspective, engagement in creative thinking and enhancement in the level of productivity as well as acquisition and application of various essential life skills. Realisation of this function is as good as making a breakthrough on the poverty cycle and for this purpose the relevance of an integrated approach to non-formal education is enormous. An integrated non-formal education framework essentially includes four major perspectives — radical emancipatory, liberal emancipatory, human resource development and rural development approach.

The first approach advocates people’s organised movement geared towards engendering their critical awareness to fight against oppressive practices whereas a liberal approach adheres to unfolding one’s own self-worth, self-abilities and self-power. Similarly, human resource development emphasises productivity enhancement through the promotion of productive skills and the rural development approach recognises basic needs-responsive skill acquisition and their application through active involvement of service-delivery institutions and organisations.

These four perspectives have greater relevance for enabling people to develop their strengths and talents along with organising constructive movements for emancipation and growth. In essence, they contribute to creating an enabling development structure through a person-centred and a system-oriented approach. If non-formal education is to be revitalised for bringing about a qualitative change in the lives of the marginalised people, formulation of non-formal education policy by drawing on these four pillars will be meaningful.