This past weekend, I happened to visit a small village as I needed to meet someone who works as a teacher in their government school. I was visiting a village school after many years and I had imagined a picture of the school in the weeks leading up to my visit.
However, reality totally betrayed my imagination. Even though the building was old, the school campus was very clean. I saw computers in an AC room on the left-hand side as I entered the school gate. There was a small library on the right-hand side teeming with books on topics ranging from history to mathematics to literature in both Hindi and English.
There were latest editions of newspapers lying in one corner of the library.
As I explored a little more, I saw the Principal’s office with an adjoining small room for the assistant. There was installed a latest biometric attendance machine for the teachers.
Well, this was enough to amaze me. When the Principal aunty (I had known her since I was a child) greeted me, she told me how busy she is in the school now.
She told me how she has to manage everything and how teachers have to motivate students and amidst all this, she also filled me in about vocational courses and career counselling taking place in the school.
She told me that the government has made provisions to guide students regarding their career and also is providing courses in beautification, IT and automobile. I was amazed to see such thoughtful developments.
To be very frank, that visit was quite surprising for me. Later, I couldn’t help but wonder that although the government seems to be spending so much money on our education, where are the results?
Why do I still see so many students working in tea shops, or supporting their parents in traditional occupations?
In search of answers, I went to the same village school again and talked to few teachers. What I got to know was surprising.
These government schools are getting plenty of funds to be spent on students. There are several policies that are run by the government to attract students to come to school. There is mid-day meal facility. Students are given school dresses, sweaters, stationary and books.
In fact, some students are also offered stipend by the government just to come to school. Above all this, there is a rule that teachers can’t fail students till they reach the 8th grade. On the face of it, it looks fascinating but reality looks more like a deadly picture.
With all due respect to the government, the majority of children enrolled in government schools are from poor families. Those who can afford to go to private schools.
At times, students are so poor that even teachers can’t keep them from going for work. For many students, school is just an institution to provide them facilities that they can’t afford.
Many students come only for the mid-day meal and for the school uniform. Also, stipend given by government attracts a large number of students. In actual, these students work real hard in factories, agriculture fields and small shops even in during school hours so as to earn some extra money for household expenses.
During crop harvesting seasons, there is a large demand for cheap labour and these children who should be learning calculations and language, skip their schools and work in fields.
Often, they work in harsh conditions to do unskilled jobs and earn little money from it.
Government although wanted to help, but made the things worse with a policy of not failing students till 8th grade. The purpose was to reduce stress and burden from the students.
However, it resulted in students taking advantage of it. Many students pass 8th grade without actually learning anything and then take up jobs that require them to be educated only till that level.
Having seen the real picture of the education system in the country, I really feel that there is still a long road to cover to achieve the 100% literacy.
Instead of luring children with free food and clothes, a revolution is needed in terms of policies for overhauling the education system and that can be rightfully honoured as an – “Edu-Revolution”.