Income Generation Schemes

There is no doubt that one of the important aims of development in the developing countries of Asia and the Pacific has been the removal of poverty amongst the masses. It is now accepted that in poor countries production and planning need to be specifically geared to the satisfaction of basic human needs. In fact, the United Nations Development Programme in its Human Development Report (1997) provided HPI (Human Poverty Index) values for several countries in the Asia-Pacific region which clearly indicate the existence of large numbers of people below the poverty line. Income-generating programmes (IGPs) have a major role to play in alleviating poverty in these countries. In India, the need for poverty alleviation has been recognized almost since the nation's independence 50 years ago.

While initially it was expected that the overall economic development strategies incorporated in the Government's five-year development plans would also reduce poverty among the masses, later on (perhaps in the 1960s) programmes specifically designed and addressed to the cause of poverty alleviation among the rural poor became indispensable. In the last four decades a number of such programmes have been and still are being implemented in this country. Simultaneously, the control of population growth through family welfare programmes and the eradication of illiteracy through special literacy drives were conceived and implemented as important planks of human development. Thus Family Welfare Programmes (FWP) and Universalisation of Primary Education (UPE) have been important aspects of development planning in India. India 161 However, for a multiplicity of reasons, not the least important of which has been inefficient implementation, the expected results from family welfare and universal primary education programmes have not come about.

To be sure, there have been marked increases in literacy levels, and also, at least in some selected areas of the country, an appreciable reduction in TFR (Total Fertility Rate) in the last two decades. Along with the extension of formal schooling facilities to the far corners of the country, non-formal education (NFE) programmes have been vigorously implemented over the last two decades as part of India's commitment to the Education for All (EFA) initiative sponsored by UNESCO. While it may be difficult to link NFE directly with poverty alleviation programmes, basic education does form the basis for skill development and the empowerment of the deprived which in turn enables the poor to participate in IGPs for poverty alleviation.

In India, both governmental as well as nongovernmental/ voluntary organizations are implementing NFE programmes. Not all of these organizations are directly involved in IGPs as well, but many of them have also taken up such programmes along with their other activities directed towards EFA. NFE and IGPs The NFE programmes are being implemented by the Central and State Governments as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to fulfil the national commitment to Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Education For All (EFA), as set out in the National Education Policy of 1986. NFE is commonly defined as any organized education activity outside the established formal system – whether operating separately or as an important feature of Income-generating Programmes for Poverty Alleviation through Non-formal Education 162 some broader activity – that is intended to serve identifiable learning clienteles and learning objectives. Shri. J. P. Naik, the doyen of the Indian education system, has discussed in great detail the three channels of learning, viz., incidental, non-formal and formal. According to Naik, the non-formal education channels cover both liberal arts and vocational education; they are traditional as well as modern; they have continued to play an important role in the education and socialization of individuals, both before and after the birth of formal education.

NFE addresses all three educational objectives of imparting knowledge, teaching skills and promoting values, although in the traditional forms it was most commonly used for teaching skills (J. P. Naik: Some Perspectives on Non-formal Education, 1977). APPEAL uses the term "non-formal" for courses and programmes offered outside the formal system. The formal system covers programmes offered by established education institutions such as schools, technical colleges and universities. Thus the term "non-formal education" is expected to cover all organized courses of studies outside the formal system, irrespective of whether these are for general, liberal arts, vocational or technical education, and also regardless of the level of education (APPEAL, UNESCO, PROAP, ATLP – CE, vol. I, 1999). In recent years, however, non-formal education has come to be identified in India with the primary level education provided outside the formal system. It is also sometimes referred to as the "equivalency programme" because students (children ages 9-14) are provided a condensed course and prepared for India 163 Standards IV or V of the formal school in a shortened period of two or three years. The children who missed the bus in the first instance for one reason or the other are thus able to join the formal mainstream later on. For the purposes of this research study, we endorse the concept of NFE as elaborated by Naik and endorsed by UNESCO.

To reiterate, NFE is the channel which covers both liberal arts and vocational education outside the formal mode. Moreover, vocational training programmes (or IGPs) may be independent of liberal arts education at the elementary level. We must emphasize that the eradication of illiteracy from a nation that is set to become the most populated in the world within only a few decades has had to be necessarily accorded the top billing in national priorities. However, this does not mean that the skills development and empowerment of the rural poor have been neglected. With the emergence of millions of neo-literates due to successful total literacy campaigns, the need to train these individuals in the skills needed for raising their incomes has become all the more pressing. Several governmental, non-governmental and voluntary organizations have taken upon themselves the task of training neo-literate as well as illiterate adults in income generating skills and activities. There is no central or even state-level direction in regard to the type and content of these training programmes aimed at promoting income generation in the rural areas.

These organizations are locally based, and build up their programmes and activities around local needs. Many of them are devoted to the empowerment of rural women so as to make them active partners, along with men, in earning for their families. They develop the course curricula, and decide the admission criteria, duration of courses and schedules to meet local requirements and suit the local populace. We mention examples of these organizations in Section 2 of this study.

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