Sunday, August 5, 2012

Where Indira Gandhi is India’s President!!!

(A special thanks to Sri Mukund Kant Mishra, aka Munshi ji who helped me to have a face-off with REALITY!!)

Among a ton of things that have its bearing from school life, a classic memory is that of the eternal essay – ‘Myself’. A chock-a-block composition, of rhetorical stuff comprising, personal details and famously ending on one’s ambition in life. Mine for that matter being – to become a doctor and serve humanity; focused and a rather crisp one! Those dreams however kept changing depending on what circumstances brewed at a given point of time.

I didn’t know what it is to be an individual without dreams till I visited this school….

Baraut is a qasba approximately 60 km away from the city of Allahabad. An assignment on RTE (Right to Education) required me to visit a few Prathmik Vidyalaya (Primary School) in the outskirts of Allahabad. The experience revealed the harrowing gap that exists between a government policy and its implementation.

Prathmik Vidyalaya, Beejapur (classes from 1-5) despite being into existence since 1963 got its building only in 1995. Thinking that there would be at least five classrooms if not anything else I was led into the premises that comprised of just one class, for if there were other rooms like the kitchen it was locked then. The only piece of furniture in that room was a table and 2 chairs for the shiksha-mitra (teachers appointed on a temporary basis across the state of Uttar Pradesh). Pupils sat on the floor the rug underneath defining the length and breadth of this temple of learning.

It was not a day marked with 100% attendance as the school had just opened. So there I was interacting with 10-15 students, boys and girls, trying to make out on my part what it is they want to do in their life. Mind you when one is talking about villages like Beejapur of Handia tehsil even aspirations come in small 250 gm packets called ‘means of subsistence’!

So while 8-year old Sunita was able to recite the whole poem ‘naya savera’ ask her what she wants to become in future and uneasiness is followed by a blank stare. Only when the masterni ji eggs on she nods her head saying that she would become like Madam ji. A cheerful Akansha unfortunately had no clue “aap bade hokar kya banoge?” while some of her classmates looked at me as if this was a question straight from Mars! No one had ever bothered them with this and here I was trying to wring a dry towel!

Sample this even on the strict parameters of prescribed norms this school didn’t fare any better:

¡  No boundary wall or fencing as per the RTE norms
¡  Only one functional toilet used by teachers, children usually go outside into the fields (separate toilets have to be ensured for boys & girls as per the Act). This was quite contradictory to the claim of 7 toilets
¡  No drinking water facility due to defunct hand-pump.
¡  Thin strength, students mostly sit on floors, no furniture other than chair and table for the teacher, No light or fan
¡  Shiksha Mitra (Kiran Mishra) confessed of shortage of teachers and no action being taken by BRC (Block Resourcement Center)

¡  Aanganbadi workers, Chanda Devi & Hansa Devi shared the abysmal state of affairs, how students take their share of panjiri and run away to their homes

It’s more on the walls than in reality and this school exemplified it like anything. 

Hoping to see a better picture I headed towards a private school in the area just a few kilometers away from this Prathmik Vidyalaya.

‘Tulsi Sansthan’ caught my attention due to the sheer infrastructure which was far better than the previous site of visit. 

At least students had benches to sit, keep their books and write. There were specific classrooms for each standard, well-lit ones and the school was in the process of installing a generator soon. There were dreams for sure as class 7th students mumbled out words like IAS, Doctor and so on. Yes there were shortcomings too especially on the front of awareness. No longer than Sunil (class 7th) said that Indira Gandhi is India’s President, my shock was overtaken by the haplessness of the teacher who just a short while ago was boasting about the quiz conducted on a regular basis solely intended to keep the students UPDATED!

Archived info and that too flawed one was an eye opener once again bringing forth several questions about the education system in India.

Fact sheet is as given below:

¡  No order has been received regarding 25% reservation under the RTE for students belonging to economically weaker section
¡  Annual exam is preceded by regular test
¡  Extra-curricular activities in the form of games and several Pratiyogita on special days such as 15th August & 26th January
¡  Pracharya Maniram Upadhyay and faculty member Ramkrishna Mishra – boast about 100% attendance; reservation to disadvantaged group as per the norms
¡  Class 7th student Sachin Mishra wants to become an IAS while Meenakshi wants to become a doctor; dreams fortunately thrive in this private institute of learning

By the way do check out the official site where the govt. boasts of several of its accomplishments. If only these facts and figures could match with the harsh realities of ground zero. Even better, why not devise a new gauge-meter that could categorize primary schools on the basis of their ability to churn out building blocks making up the much-hyped Demographic Dividend. Till then let’s accept that Indira Gandhi is indeed India’s President and all those kids hailing from the heartland want to become like Madam ji. 

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