Udaipur is a district in Rajasthan that has been further divided into 17 blocks. Most of the population of these blocks are tribals, living in rural set-ups. Education is the most pressing need of the hour; it acts as a ray of hope for these underprivileged people living in conditions where three meals a day are difficult to manage.
Sarada block of Udaipur consists of 219 villages, but only 170 schools, out of which just 20 are secondary schools, 40 upper primary, and the rest provide education till class 5.
The Government is trying to bridge the gap by developing plans and schemes which only become poisonous in the long run. One such scheme is the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan. Many out of these 170 schools were built under this scheme. What, then, is wrong? Isn’t it great to have these many schools? Sadly, the correct response is ‘no’.
The word school derives from the Greek word ‘skholē’ originally meaning “leisure”. A school is thus a place where you have the leisure to pursue anything. When we think of a school, we have an image of classrooms with benches, blackboards, proper management of students, painted walls, and all kinds of things which help in creating a healthy environment or space for kids that is conducive to learning.
But, most of the kids in Sarada block are forced to study under ceilings leaking rainwater. The school walls cannot even hold chart papers because of the excess moisture in them. The plaster on the walls has started peeling on its own. The corridors are also in similar conditions.
“The attendance of students drops by 40-50% during the rainy season, because the water is all over the classrooms through the ceilings. We even have to club different classes in one classroom to let the school function on many days, which definitely hampers class-wise learning,” said Kailashchand Ameta, who serves as a teacher in Government Upper Primary School, Bootvas, Sarada.
The schools are made of the same material as most houses in the area, but only very rarely will you see a house’s ceiling leaking. The labourers are also local, and involved in the construction of houses and other buildings alongside the schoolhouse. The buildings for Panchayat Samitis, Atal Seva Kendras, SDM offices etc are unaffected during rains in this area. Seeing only school buildings be affected by the rainwater is troubling. It hints towards the possibility of large scale corruption happening at the implementation levels of these government schemes. Similarly, when it comes to implementation, the scheme of providing seasonal fruits once in a week to the students in the government schools of Rajasthan is also failing miserably in deprived areas like these.
Kali Meena, a resident of Ambala Village of Sarada who also happens to be a mid-day meal worker, says,“These governments come and go, they keep changing policies, but nobody knows what actually happens with poor people like us. Sometimes, we don’t even have a space to make food for the kids because here we only use firewood and we cannot light the fire because of the raindrops dripping off the ceilings. We still manage. Only we know how.”
The villagers are compelled to either keep their kids at home or send them to these schools where they have to form elaborate strategies in order to find a dry place to sit. The communities are not economically well-off enough to send their kids to the fully equipped private schools functioning in the area. “Bachcho ko padhaana to hai hi, ab school nahi bhejein to kya kare? Teacher jaise taise to baitha hi dete hain bachchon ko school mein (We have to educate our kids. Now, what should we do if we can’t send them to school? The teacher makes them sit haphazardly, wherever possible),” said Keshav Meena from Udpuriya Village. His daughter, Pramila, has just passed class 5. She wants to pursue teaching as a profession in her future.
Consider a student being irregular in the initial three months of an academic year, during the rainy season. How will that kid ever catch up with the pace of studies? No matter how sharp or brilliant, it will be difficult for them to understand the theoretical concepts and lessons due to a lack of continuity.
It is crucial to get down on the field to improve the state of affairs; the bottoms-up approach is exactly what India as a nation needs for development in such realistic scenarios.