Last evening my wife, Yamuna was talking to Sulekha, my sister-in-law in Pipra. I was inquisitive to know about the girls with whom I talked during my March visit to my village. They all had appeared for school final examination. How were their scores? Could some of them go for higher education? What Sulekha informed was just shocking. Hardly any would go for higher education, because their parents with their meager earning can’t afford that. Logistically too, it would be difficult. They all will perhaps get married at the earliest, arranged by the family.
But what shocked me more was the additional revelation from Sulekha. Sulekha herself runs a coaching of a sort.
Most of those girls, the typical lot in rural Bihar of the day could have hardly continued because they just can’t cope up with the curricula of the higher studies. Their score in school final examination does reflect their real capability. They normally follow all unfair practices of copying backed by their teachers, guardians and relations and score high percentage of marks. Forget about the knowledge level, their basic capacity of reading, writing, and grasping is extremely poor. On their own they would have hardly scored 40% or even failed. But many of them scored 70% or more, because of the malpractices used in writing the answer books. There are exceptions but very few.
Sulekha advised me not to be morose. According to her, one can hardly improve the situation under the condition prevailing in the rural Bihar. Bihar, particularly the rural region, lacks the culture required for the spread of quality education. Most of the teachers in the village school just manage their attendance to get their salary. They do everything else but teaching while in school. Parents are illiterate but more than that they hardly appreciate the need of education and the scope that it provides. Unemployed youth with some education loitering without any work and wasting their time in villages provide disincentive to the villagers to get their kids educated. Coaching is non-existent. Most of the villagers are underemployed and waste the time in gossip and village politics. Farming activities keep them busy for hardly 15 days in each cultivation season, but not more than 45 days in the whole year. Good tutors are hardly available. If available, most of the families can hardly afford to pay their fees. No one is available to do this work for free, not even the retired old persons.
The main task for the government agencies and its employees, the organized business community, the religious gurus and so called civil society must be to research what is required to create an ambiance of learning, innovation and entrepreneurship in rural India. Even today the villages in Bihar are hardly having any common reading room with some newspapers or even a small library. Whosoever somehow got educated has migrated. The school or village group hardly organizes any function such as prize giving ceremonies related to the performance of the kids in education or skills. Is it very difficult to have an effective programme to create a conducive atmosphere for education in the villages when the government is pouring so much of money in rural sector? School system must explore possibilities of extensive interactions of the rural children through visits and collaborating with various schools in jointly-organized programmes for students. Education shows can also be organized for better exposure and challenges.
I have been talking with persons from different states about the situations in rural regions of their states. I found them all concerned about the deteriorating conditions of education in the villages. Those who are the policy makers, though with their origin in the villages have lost their touch and concern for the villages. Those left in villages are establishing their own norms of culture in name of tradition that are more rigid and inhumane.
More than the infrastructures for school perhaps, the rural India needs orientation programmes touching all the population. I wish the policy makers give some thought to this issue. Unfortunately, India started with galore of wonderful programmes of adult education but all ended with announcements with hardly any result visible on ground.
PS: Like many exemplary actions, I wish Bihar publishes and distributes a daily newspaper ‘Gram Samachar’ to every Panchayat and create a reading room with every Panchayat Bhawan. . The investment will be its worth.