There is a new trend in India — the teachers and doctors call for protest quite often while ignoring the repercussions. The Maharashtra State Federation of Junior College Teachers’ Organisation (MSFJCTO) held a state-level strike at Azad Maidan and teachers across the state protested outside their district education offices in February. Later they carried out a ‘jail bharo’ agitation in solidarity. The teachers had also threatened to boycott the HSC board exams if their demands are not met. Nearly 72,000 teachers across the state and around 15,000 in Mumbai participated in the strike last month. However, nor the then ongoing practical exams or students were affected. MSFJCTO has been protesting for the past three years with a total of 32 demands. Some of them include a pension scheme for the teachers who joined after November 1, 2005, aid for teachers working in unaided institutions, approval on the appointment of teachers working from May 2, 2012, which has delayed their salaries. In India, where our Prime Minister is talking about development and progress, he has gone snail on the education sector.
Education in India comprises of government, government aided and private institutions of which nearly 40 per cent are government. With the population growth rate of 1.5 per cent, there is a tremendous pressure on the education system to provide quality education at an affordable price and improve the literacy rate. India is the largest democracy with remarkable diversity among its population of 1.2 billion, which makes up to about 17 per cent of the world’s population. Almost 70 per cent of Indian population belongs to the rural part of the country. The adult literacy rate stands at about 60 per cent and this is significantly lower in women and minorities. India has made substantial efforts to bring education to rural India. However, what it could not bring is quality education.
The government spending on primary education is not adequate to provide quality education to the rural population that still makes up over 65 per cent of the Indian population. Even the budget sanctioned is running scared mainly to the cities.
Considering there are less number of schools in villages, many a times, there is only one school built for students from several villages. Many schools lack proper buildings, classrooms, benches, toilets and blackboards. The lack of other infrastructure like road and rail connectivity makes it even more difficult. No need to talk about libraries. Although, educating rural India is one of the most important tasks for the government, there is no special body in place for supervising this. There are no measures in place for checking the quality of education. There is neither any feedback mechanism nor initiatives for improving the quality. Poor planning (or no planning) is responsible for inefficient outcomes.
We lack teachers in terms of both quality and quantity. Teachers are inefficient in many schools. Most of the teachers are poorly trained while some of them are even unqualified. It gets worse for higher classes. While good teachers go for private schools, the bad ones come for the government schools. Unattractive salaries may be partly the reason for this. Forget paying fees, many parents do not send their kids to school as they lose money to teach them and send them to work and earn bread for the family. This is the reason that child labour is not in control and the poverty is still intact. Our government might be chest beating on “Garibi Haatao” (remove Poverty) but in the actual scenario they want poor people to remain poor for their own election agenda. Poverty and illiteracy influences the vote bank and they are the favourite targets of the political parties. Politicians or anyone have never come up with a good idea to improve the situation. No doubt, the Midday Meal Scheme has improved the enrollment of students (and their health too) but again the real issue here is the quality education where it doesn’t help. Apart from that, improving primary education in the rural India hardly finds space in any political manifesto.
Officials eat up the money meant for the development of schools. Books meant for distribution to kids are sold off for scrap value. Infrastructure is built only on papers. There are schools in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and few other places where teachers only draw salaries but never go to school to teach. As people have pointed out, lack of proper infrastructure, teachers, proper planning are some of the many reasons. Most of the students of Class 4 and even Class 5 can’t read a sentence properly. Since, the quality of imparted education is very bad, the students find it increasingly difficult to understand things as they go up the education ladder. And as their age increases, they are expected to start earning too. So, it makes little sense for them to continue education and ‘waste time’.
People don’t pay enough attention to the schooling of their children. An educated urban household would look after everything the child does, check every letter of their notebooks. On the other hand, I’ve seen people neglecting the schools fees in spite of having the resources. Most of the parents are not well educated, scarcely beyond HSC or graduation.
A lot of blame goes to the Government. A scheme like the Midday meal yields positive results, and has decreased dropout rates. There have been little efforts for improving the quality of education. There is no proper planning or implementation of such measures. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, in spite of being a large-scale programme, does not do as much good as expected. Corruption is rampant and it steals away a lot.
In all these odds, the education in metro cities that has been privatised remains unaffordable for common man; the education in government colleges and schools need lot more attention. Amid all these irregularities, teachers have their own issues and they call for protest. The edification is still a challenge in modern India.
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