theindialog

September 28, 2009

Tezpur Government School

Filed under: Assam,Education — loggers @ 8:30 pm

As part of the 2nd leg of our tour, we have decided to visit educational institutions (public and private), wherever possible. While in Tezpur, we dropped in at the Dulabari lower primary school (Kindergarten – Grade 4) in village teen mile. This Assamese medium school has 456 students and 7 teachers, putting the faculty-to-student ratio at 65:1, a depressing statistic. We learnt that a government school cannot specify its own admission criteria as it must admit every applicant under SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan) – a central government scheme geared towards free and compulsory education for children upto the age of 14.

Lower Primary School, Teen Mile, Tezpur

Lower Primary School, Teen Mile, Tezpur

The faculty was convivial and responded enthusiastically to all of our queries – often synchronizing complaints with reactions. They were especially critical of the additional responsibilities that have been imposed on them, such as cooking for the mid-day meal scheme, as their resources were already stretched. The provision for a meal per child was just increased from INR2 to INR2.09, but this does not sufficiently cover costs in light of increasing input prices. When asked about the impact of the well-advertised SSA, the headmaster seemed to be pleased with the monetary assistance the school was receiving, with regards to infrastructure and maintenance expenses. However, we were also shown a big, locked steel box with TLMs (Teacher Learning Materials), whose contents seemed to be unused, thereby suggesting that the teachers were not properly trained on their use

The school had no boundary wall or playground and sanitation facilities were rudimentary. There was no electricity till the teachers decided to shell out the requisite amount for obtaining a connection, which took 6 months to get started. They had to charge the students INR10 per annum to cover these electricity costs, since the government did not agree to provide them with it. Most families in the district belong to a minority group and believe that the government is treating them like a “stepchild”. Thus, the government’s inaction is perpetuating an unfortunate confirmation bias in that a minority is feeling discriminated against when schools in many districts, irrespective of demographics, face similar problems.

After the recommendations of the 6th Pay Commission, public school teachers are among the best paid government employees. Yet attracting, and cultivating, good teachers remains a major problem for government (and private) schools. This, combined with implementation gaps and woefully inadequate infrastructure in most government schools leaves much to be desired and suggests that more work needs to be done.

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