Education: Rural India Deserves Innovation from Sibal

Unfortunately, Sibal’s education reform agenda appear to fall sort of being realistic one so far the education problems in rural India is concerned. As perquisite of success, the ignorant parents who are in majority in remote rural area require to be educated about the role and scope of education for their children and their future. Unfortunately, most of these parents have very wrong notions about educating their children. Many considered education a route for getting employed in cozy jobs that can change the fortune of the family with huge land purchses, good and big houses, and everything that money can buy for the family and all through ‘upari aamdani’ (bribes). Over the years, many of them got disillusioned when they didn’t find this happening.

Another reason of the poor quality of education in rural India is sudden disappearance of dedicated teachers who over years have got converted and started considering themselves just the employees of the state working for the salary and comparing their salaries with others. The respectful position of teachers in society has lost its attraction. The teachers grouped themselves into their unions demanding their right, without agreeing to own any responsibility. They are hardly interested in encouraging the children to attain their best latent talents. They hardly teach and see that the student understands.

The worst have been the teachers of North India who were mostly from higher castes earlier. They treated the students almost as servants. Can you think of teachers getting massaging done by students, and getting the water lifted from well for bathing or getting their clothes washed, beside expecting milk, curd, buttermilk and even other commodities from the students? The earlier notion of presenting oneself as example to the students got lost somewhere. Is it strange if a recent study finds that there is no teaching activity in about half of the primary schools on an average day in rural north India?

Unfortunately, the society doesn’t wish to take any responsibility to correct the way the teacher functions leaving everything to the government system that has conveniently gone totally corrupt.

Before expecting any improvement in quality of education from these teachers, the political parties must disown the teachers and must have consensus not to support them. One can see these protests quite often on TV screens from the streets of the capitals of every state.

Will the Right to Education Bill that makes education a fundamental right for every child in the 6-14 age group, will change the situation in rural India?

Most of the rural schools are shabby lacking facilities for students of the tender ages. I doubt if the state governments would have standardized the architecture and ambience and decided the location properly. At least in my region in Bihar, I find the rural schools at a distance away from the main village as poorly constructed few rooms. After school hours no one lives there and some of the schools become the night shelters or workplaces for antisocial elements including dacoits. How can one think of keeping computers and other necessary gadgets there in class rooms and creativity centres or the books and reading materials in library rooms? I wish the state government or the panchayats create all the government funded structures in a cluster that one day may have community centre, knowledge kiosks, village mall, health care facility and sports complex along with the village school.

Sibal may get fund for building and providing all the necessary equipment and aids, but the education activists of the community must volunteers to make the government education plans effective to take the fruits of good education to every citizen. However, Sibal or the state government must start with compulsory accreditation and grading the performance appraisal of the teachers linking with their remunerations. Dead woods must go if can’t be restored.

I wish Sibal finds solutions for someone like Asha, the Times of India poster girl and her mother, Kamali. There are millions of them in rural India. It requires a great movement to put all these Ashas get them interested in going to schools and convince Kamlis who say, “Asha is the youngest of my seven children. She cries if we send her to school. None of my children have been to school. My eldest daughter is now 24 and has four children. Two of my other daughters are married and have large families. Interestingly, Asha knows the exact time when to go to the aanganwadi for her lunch and then begs for that extra something she gets from tourists in the Rani Roopmati’s palaces of Mandu.

But there is also hope coming from the stories of individuals’ endeavours in the area. The Shanti Bhawan, a free school for dalit children in 30-acre campus on the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border founded by Abraham George. Shanti Bhavan caters to disadvantaged dalit children from below-poverty-line families and aims to give world-class education to its students so that these children of sewer cleaners, bonded labourers and masons can become society leaders as lawyers, environmentalists and astronauts. Students are only taken in at the age of four and they spend the best part of the next 13 years at Shanti Bhavan. They are charged no fees. Its first batch (begun in 1997) will pass out next year.

I am sure there must be many dedicated Indians whom I don’t know, doing something as George is doing. India requires plenty of them, as the government and its officers can hardly achieve what is necessary for the nation. They can only come out with the schemes that can win them elections and make their sycophant followers rich through leakages built in the schemes.

I wish Sibal works with the state ministers and their bureaucrats to get the education improved in rural India effectively where 60% of population lives.

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