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"Aakash" too high to many children in the country


December 21, 2011 - Madhubani

"To every child in India I carry this message. Aim for the sky and beyond. There is nothing holding you back." This stirring statement, by Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal on the launch of a cheap tablet computer, surely creates an impression of an expected educational reform in the Indian society.

The computer, called Aakash, or "sky" in Hindi, is India's hope of getting its 220 million children online. This ignites spark of a promising future where India will have an educated force supported by technological advancements. Amazed at the high hopes of the ministry, a class fifth student of a small village in Bihar has a question to put forth - Hello! Am I included in this figure of 220 million children?

In Bishphi village of Madhubani district, Bihar, I chanced to visit a primary school located in the Ward No. 1/2 of the Bishphi Panchayat. As I entered, a catchy poster pasted on the wall grabbed my attention as written over it were the details of the Mid-Day Meal to be provided each day to the students. Impressed with the fact that government has managed to reach this remotely located school, my expectations from this school got mounted up, unaware of the fact that - not essentially the first impression is the last.

Reena Kumari, the principal and the only teacher of the school, unfolded before us a long list of issues, varying from management to education to health, which if not taken care of immediately will push the future of 187 students in absolute obscurity.

The entire lot of 187 students is dependent on a single teacher for all their problems. According to the orders, the accepted teacher-student ratio is 1:40. Situation deteriorates when the deployed teacher retires from the school. "Seetal Prasad Sahu Gupta got retirement from the service on 31st January 2011. However, I joined the school after a long gap of eight months in August that required incessant cajoling of the Panchayat Head and Block Education Officer (BEO)," said Ms. Kumari.

During these eight months, retired Ms. Gupta, who belonged to the dedicated cult continued visiting the school and looked after the management. Ms. Gupta and Ms. Kumari both escalated the matter to BEO but they got nothing in their hands except for the unkept promises.

What about the Mid-Day Meal then? Is it available for the "education-hungry" students? "I received only 150 kg of rice after taking the charge in August that too got finished long time back. Since then we haven't got the stock refilled," informed Ms. Kumari. Repeated complaints failed to reach the numb ears of the BEO.

"We are allowed to use the toilet," said the small lot of 14 students. "Once in a blue moon, we get Mid-Day Meal also. There are five rooms in the school, but only one room is used due to less number of students."

The students and the school both are in need of an understanding and transparent system as they have several grave issues to tackle. As per the government policy, 60 students should be provided a sum of Rs. 500 for the uniform. "We received Rs. 24000 instead of Rs. 30,000 and hence were unable to provide money to 12 students," said Ms. Kumari.

This has created a ruckus between the parents and the school administration. This time Ms. Kumari got an answer from the BEO - "The department had sent some extra money to other schools, we will send the remaining amount to your school once we get that extra money back."

How the cut down of the funds of one school can be used for the betterment of another one?

This is not the single case. Another school in the Balha Panchayat in Ramaniya Village is facing problems on the same lines. There are seven teachers in the school but they haven't got their salary for the past 13 months (really? For more than a year?). No point left for asking about the Mid-Day Meal. The school, till date, doesn't have toilet facility. However, BEO has passed the orders for the construction of the toilet on a condition that the allotted school funds will be spent for the same. God only knows the mathematics of the "Allotted" school funds.

The state government has introduced several schemes to promote education. But what's the point when the needy ones are not benefitting from these schemes? In fact, they become the cause of concern for students, parents and the teachers. Bihar, undoubtedly, is on the road of success but few isolated ones are lagging behind. There is a pressing need to step up the pace.

The Charkha Development Communication Network feels that one cannot achieve the set goal of 30 percent growth in higher education admissions if the ground reality continues to be the same as in the schools of Bihar. By Salman Abdusssamad

ANI

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