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It’s High Time Education And Jobs Became An Issue In Bihar Elections

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It doesn’t take rocket science to guess the issues on which elections are fought in Bihar. They are obviously the caste arithmetic, religious polarisation and personality cult of their leaders.

For decades, public in Bihar has prioritised these issues over the basic ones, such as education, health, industry, infrastructure, unemployment, etc. And strangely, a large segment of mainstream media calls Bihar a politically-aware state. They obviously need to assess their understanding of being “politically aware”. Just being conscious of the caste dynamics and shifting loyalties can’t be a parameter of being a politically aware citizen, at least not in the 21st century.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. PTI Photo

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has yet again thoroughly exposed the gaps in both human and infrastructure development of the state. From jobless migrants walking barefoot across the length and breadth of the country to the deplorable health infrastructure in which people are dying due to lack of hospital beds, Nitish government seems to have failed in each aspect.

Of the many developmental issues mentioned above, let’s take a look at the state of education in Bihar—what ails it and what needs to be done.

School Education In Bihar

Right from elementary to higher education—plus the competitive examinations, a similar set of problems can be seen. This includes poor quality of teaching-learning, lack of both capital and human resource, red-tapism, corruption, untimely academic sessions, lack of employment opportunities, poor salaries, use of unfair practices, etc. Hence, it’s no surprise that Bihar was ranked 17th out of 20 major states in NITI Aayog’s School Education Quality Index.

In the last 15 years of the Nitish government, the number of school buildings has no doubt increased considerably—thanks to the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA). The enrollment of both boys and girls, too, have jumped significantly owing to the provisions of RTE Act, Mid Day Meal Scheme (MDM), and the plethora of populist measures introduced by Nitish government, such as cycle yojana or scholarship for the girl child, etc. But this is just the quantitative aspect of it. As you move to the qualitative aspect, the same government has left no stone unturned in ensuring that Bihari children get the worst quality of school education.

Image for representation only.

Our very own Ravish Kumar aptly repeats, “Kaksha mein bina guru ke Bharat kaise banega vishwa guru?” Yes, Bihar wishes to achieve the glory of ancient learning without adequate teachers!

In his 15 years in office, Nitish Kumar could appoint school teachers just once and that, too, was marred by the appointment of untrained teachers and corrupt, nepotistic practices. When you see clips on television in which teachers are not even able to write their names properly, it’s the product of that 2011-12 recruitment by Bihar government. They are the very teachers who produced toppers like Ruby Rai.

After that, no recruitment has been done in the last eight years. More than one lakh posts are vacant at different levels, but the government simply doesn’t care. Neither do they conduct TET exams every year, nor wish to appoint the already qualified ones. The STET exam earlier this year was cancelled on the frivolous charges of “cheating”, and as usual, the matter is in court for the past few months.

Besides the recruitment, comes the issue of the salary of teachers. Bihar is one of the very few states who don’t adhere to the principle of “Equal Pay for Equal Work”. Not just in education but almost in every department the posts are converted to a contractual basis—so that they don’t have to adhere to the “Pay Scale”. Unfortunately, in a long drawn battle in Supreme Court, Patna High Court’s judgement on increased salaries was reversed.

Evaluating The State Of Higher Education

Now moving to the field of higher education, Bihar continues to be a regular exporter of students to engineering and medical colleges in western and southern India. Except for IIT, Patna, none of the engineering colleges from Bihar feature in the top 100, nor do any medical college or law college feature in the list of top-ranking institutions.

The state of medical colleges is quite visible amid the COVID-19 outbreak with more than half the posts of doctors and nurses remain vacant in addition to an inadequate number of beds, ventilators, and oxygen cylinders.

Although a couple of new universities, such as the ones in Munger and Purnia have been established, University education overall has been in a deep crisis in Bihar for long. Just like the technical colleges mentioned above, none of the Universities of Bihar feature in NIRF ranking. In fact, they are hesitant to even participate in the process.

The problem in Bihar Universities starts right from the top with heavy corruption charges in the appointment of the Vice-Chancellors. Besides that, ad-hocism in running the universities has also been a common practice. At present, only five universities in Bihar have regular vice-chancellors. This lacklustre attitude at the top is reflected in the whole administrative and academic structure of the universities—leading to delayed sessions, absentee teaching-learning and widespread use of unfair means to pass the exams.

The glorious past of Patna, Bhagalpur and Magadha Universities have systematically been undone in the last four decades. While the appointment of lecturers during Lalu’s regime witnessed corruption, Nitish government in 2005 abolished the University Service Commission alleging it to be a den of corruption.

But the Nitish government failed to start any new processes of recruitment, which has halted any fresh appointments for the next 10 years. Finally, in 2014, about 3500 posts were advertised by BPSC, but after six years, it’s yet to complete the process for all the subjects.

Image for representation only

Talks of about 9000 new vacancies have been in the news for the last two years, but without any success. The Nitish government has also decided to bring back the infamous University Service Commission. The ongoing recruitment by BPSC has, by and large, been fair and qualified people have come into the system. Still, the academic community fears that with University Service Commission back in place, we are again moving towards corrupt and fraudulent recruitment process.

As we move on to competitive exams, the same story of administrative apathy is also seen here. Due to the lack of any industry or service sector, the youth of Bihar is left with only two choices: leave the state in search of employment opportunities or go for the government sector exams.

As is the custom elsewhere in the Hindi heartland, the exam-conducting agencies such as SSC, PSC, BSEB, etc., take full liberty in draining one’s energy waiting for exams, results and court cases for years.

However, the work of BPSC and BSEB in the last couple of years does show a ray of hope that things can be improved for better—if there’s a will to do so. BSEB, which was quite infamous a few years ago for delaying Board exams and results—thus casting a shadow over further admissions in colleges, did a turn around in 2019 completing the process within one year. In fact earlier than other states.

BPSC, too, in the tenure of Sishir Sinha, did a remarkable job by bringing calendar on time and increasing transparency. It was so successful that BPSC became a model for other states’ PSCs. But with the retirement of the incumbent officers, there’s a fear of these bodies plunging into their earlier state again.

After having discussed the various aspects of education at length, it’s needless to say that overall, Bihar has an abysmal track record in every aspect. And one big reason behind all this is that we have never made it an election issue. Election manifestos and rallies of politicians here hardly talk about quality education and employment.

It’s high time we move away from succumbing to populist measures and demand concrete change in the education system. Only then can we address the massive exodus of Bihari students and create a congenial environment for development within our state.

You must be to comment.
  1. Anu Bharti

    Yes, I do agree with you that we should make education the most important weapon to change the scenario of Bihar. Its education system has no system at all.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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