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Many schools in Bihar lack adequate rooms, toilets and even teachers!

Darbhanga, Fri, 06 Apr 2012 ANI

Darbhanga, Apr 6 (ANI): "The current age is the era of knowledge and not of weapons, and only through education and knowledge can one break out of the abject poverty". Wise words from Bihar's Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who believes that times have changed since his government took over: now is the time to pick up the pen and discover its power.

The Bihar Government has done some tremendous work in terms of raising the level of awareness of education across the state. The initial efforts were directed towards achieving success in the enrolment in schools and the results of the hard work became visible in 2011 when only 2.5 percent children were out of school compared to 12 percent in 2005 when Nitish Kumar first came to power.

But the efforts did not stop there. After achieving success in school enrolments, the target shifted to improving the quality of education in the schools. Several schemes have been launched till date by Nitish's Government to make people aware of the benefits of education and include children from remotest part of Bihar into the development fold.

After so much labour, it is unfortunate that we have several cases in the state where one can see a dismal picture of how wrong the ground reality is, as compared to the good intentions of the Government.

Vidyapati High School located in Bishphi Block of Madhubani District is a case in point, illustrating the different loopholes to be addressed if cent per cent success in education is to become a reality.

Vidyapati High School has over nine hundred students, 40 percent of which comprise girls. Defying all promises of sanitation this school does not have a single toilet in its premises. This, despite the recognition that providing safe drinking water and sanitation to the students is one of the prime responsibilities of the school authorities and the government.

"There are 860 million mobile phones in the country, but not as many toilets. This reflects not just upon India, but our attitude towards sanitation. It also reflects that the Government over the years has not paid the kind of attention that ought to have been paid on issues related to sanitation," said Union Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal at the launch of National School Sanitation Ratings Programme in July last year.

Under the existing National School Sanitation Initiative, he said, it would be incumbent on part of the schools to lay emphasis on personal hygiene, proper sanitation, clean toilets, safe drinking water and separate toilets for both the genders. With the situation like that of Vidyapati High School, it will be difficult to achieve the set target of sanitation programme.

The problem is not restricted to sanitation alone; for these nine hundred students, studying in classrooms is an uncomfortable experience. They sit and study on the floor of the school premises as there are only five classrooms provided by the government to cater to the needs of hundreds of students. Right to Education Act has a lot to offer regarding the conditions under which a student should be imparted education and what the school premises should look like. At stake is not only the right to education, but the right to a seat at a school desk too.

There is no electricity, no windows, no doors and no library. In our metropolitan cities we are well acquainted with schools, of course the private ones, that offer five star treatment to the students; but on the other hand rural Indian students survive and study in absence of even basic facilities. They do not demand the five star treatment but neither are they wrong if they raise their voice to ask for basic facilities like rooms, toilets, safe drinking water and teachers!

Yes - even teachers. There are only seven teachers to impart education to these students with no teachers for subjects like Biology, Geography and Urdu. Substituting their absence are the physical training teacher and the librarian (without a library). The school is running since 2009 without a Principal. One of the teachers, Mohammad Alimuddin has been administering the school since then.

This school was upgraded to the level of a Senior Secondary two years ago. But as the above conditions suggest, it is a senior secondary school merely on paper and a school belonging to the Dark Ages in reality. Similar was the situation of a primary school located in the ward no. 1/2 of the Bishphi Panchayat in Bishphi village of Madhubani district.

The BDO (Block Development Officer), whose office is only a few 100 meters away from the school, was not surprised by the facts we shared about the dismal condition of the school we had visited. Instead, he surprised us by explaining that there are dozens of school that are surviving under similar hostile conditions.

The condition of Vidyapati High School gives us substantiate reason to believe the Annual Status of Education Report - ASER 2011 that surveyed 633,465 children in 16,000 schools in 558 districts and reported that less than a third of class III students in rural Indian schools can solve simple two-digit subtraction problems.

Education simply can't be achieved under such circumstances. ASER also reported that nationally, private school enrolment has risen over the years for 6-14 years age group from 18.7 per cent in 2006 to 25.6 in 2011, except in Bihar, which has the unique distinction of actually decreasing the proportion enrolled in private schools because of opening of a large number of government schools and recruitment of teachers.

But on the other hand, children's attendance in Bihar is the lowest in the country and nearly 60 per cent elementary school children in the State go to private tutors. In the past four years, attendance of children in Bihar dropped by nine percentage points.

This increase in number of schools/teachers and decline in the number of students attending the classes underlines a very significant fact that somewhere there is a major gap between the government initiatives and their implementation at the ground. There is an urgent need to fill that gap.

The years of hard work invested by the Bihar Government to uplift the education statistic should not go waste. Every month or two a proper inspection should be carried out to get a real picture of how the schemes are being implemented, where the funds are being invested, quality of education imparted to the children, maintenance of attendance register not only for the children but for the teachers as well. But everything will fall flat without the participation and awareness of the teachers and the community.

Nitish Kumar has created an intense urge to study among the children in Bihar.

The Charkha Development Communication network feels that his government can't afford to leave their dreams unfulfilled. For someone tentatively learning to fly, strengthening his wings is a pre-requisite after all! By Rajeev Kumar Singh (ANI)

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