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The dismal state of government schooling....

INDIA | Monday, 4 April 2011 | Views [591]

Asha Devi's first art session (Class 1)

Asha Devi's first art session (Class 1)

16th February

This year PEAK has gone back to working in conjunction with the government school. Partially brought on by the erratic timing of classes at the government school that make it impossible to have a reliable timetable structure for the 'Library'. After much agonising, we found it easier on the days the government school is operating to go and collect the children one class at a time for two hours of tuition in the classroom. When the government school doesn't operate PEAK acts independently. The children in Class 1-5 are fantastic in the 'library', they love their 'space' and are producing wonderful, creative artwork. I get a sense of joy at watching children whose sould appear pulverised by the mind numbing rote learning routine and endemic culture of violence at the government school blossom under a different system.

As a small side story... when we first stated working in Khati there was a balwari (Kindergarten) Madame - who shall remain anonymous and has since left her position - who had a bamboo cane, slit on one end with an inset of suun (stinging nettle). She used to chase down small children (age 3-5 years old) for the most minor of misdemeanors and with her torturous cane rub the nettle on their little faces and necks with glee....

Last year was the year we discovered that the community in conjuncion with the Panchayat can write a letter to the District Magistrate demanding that absent teachers return to work (as I have bemoaned many times they are not at work wery often) - but one they are here you can't actually make them teach! Instead with a rather large bamboo cane by your side to thump any errant kids with, you can sit on plastic chairs around a table that will most likely be postioned in the sun and drink copious cups of chai (tea).

Start time: 10.30am

Luch: 1-2.30pm

Home time: 2.31pm

It is well known and widely acknowledged that the state of government education in India is dismal and on a backward slide. Chronic teacher absenteeism and poor educational benchmarks are the norm at many schools in Northern India, with the performance of government school children worse than their counterparts at private schools. It's easy to understand why the demand for private education is high across the country.

Today,for example in Khati I can report that one junior school teacher (upper primary) Master left lst Friday and hasn't returned to his post. And two days ago the remaining junior school master also vanished back to Bageshwar. The primary school teacher left in December claiming he would be back to work at the start of February.... but we have since been told that he has taken up a position at an Inter-college elsewhere. The head primary teacher (who though he was a local villager had an appalling attendence rate) long ago transferred his whole family to Bageshwar for educational reasons! Financially he was able to relocate his own family while collecting his teachers salary but not attending his position at the school. Over a year ago he started a new course in teacher training in Bageshwar but was unfortunately killed in a car accident in November. Most days Tara the Balwari Madam is left to fill the void (by at least sitting at the school), in conjunction with staff at the 'Library'

Due to the increased financial capacity of some villagers, a new phenomena is on the rise is Khati. We have seen the first wave of families either relocating or sending their childen to Kapkote or Bageshwar in seach of better education. PEAK can offer an alternative learning environment, but does not have the resources or the teaching staff to adequately cover the whole cirriculum for Class 15.

In the latest Annual Status of Education Reort (ASER) the quality of education in rual schools in Uttar Pradesh revealed a teacher absentee rate of 19%. In the upper primary school segment the figures stand at 20.2%. Only a mere 53.1% of primary and 46.9% of upper primary schools had a full compliment of teaching staff on any given day.* The report also noted that the teachers present have not been teaching when a school. Nearly 50% of all children in Class 3 could not recognise numbers. Three out of four cildren in Class 8 could not do subtraction and less than 55% knew how to divide. Over 14% of children from Class 1-4 couldn't read anything even in Hindi. Close to 80% cannot identify the alphabt and 86% couldn't read words. The situation in rural Uttarakhand is no different.



* Th ASER Report appeared in The Times of India, New Delhi, Friday January 21, 2011.

Tags: indian government schooling, poor results, private schooling, teacher absenteeism, teacher violence



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