Former Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee, 94, breathed his last on Thursday. He was a towering figure in Indian politics and came real close to settling the Kashmir issue with Pakistan for good. Besides numerous others feats during his illustrious political career that spanned several decades, Vajpayee also helped the Indian education system improve considerably.

Vajpayee and his government were behind India’s successful ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ initiative, an educational project that saw millions of Indian children step into schools for the very first time. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) ensured that every Indian child between 6-14 years of age received free and compulsory education. As a result, enrolment in both primary and secondary schools improved, with a 2013 statement from the Indian government saying that the SSA had helped the school dropout number fall from 8 million in 2009 to just 3 million in 2012.

India’s net enrolment ratio at the primary level has also gone up to 99.8 percent due to the SSA initiative. At present, there are close to 191 million children enrolled in 1.45 million elementary schools in India, while there are 6.62 million teachers working at the elementary level, SSA claims.

Vajpayee’s government initiated the SSA on a pattern similar to District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) planned during 1993-94 that was aimed at improving the Indian education system. SSA now covers 18 states and 272 districts, and 85% of the total expenditure is provided by the central government.

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