By Oken Jeet Sandham
Nagaland Governor Dr Ashwani Kumar always emphasizes on the “quality education” in the State and once cautioned, while speaking at the 20th Foundation Day of Nagaland University at Kohima last year, that “If we delay in taking corrective measures and do not immediately rework our curriculum and courses, we will be doing injustice to our children.” He called on academicians, politicians and civil societies to start providing quality education to the students of the state.
I think the Governor much have had hunch of the precarious educational conditions of the State. And by now he must have realized of the state of affairs in the State. It is really sad that the educational systems in most of the government schools in the State are in a complete mess. There have been reports that students have to appear their exams without seeing their textbooks. School uniforms are not provided on time or sometimes not at all. Mid-day meal crises have become normal and in a very comical manner, the previous Education Minister in DAN-II Government even admitted on the floor of Assembly that he had taken Rs 51, 00,000/- for use in attending functions as chief guest.
Of late, fresh complaints surfaced from Dimapur areas that the students and teachers from government Town Middle School, located in Half Nagarjan area are reported to have waited for government’s action to deliver the textbooks for the students, before their exams started. The shocking exposé is the Headmistress of the school admitted that all such unwanted thing had happened in spite of their constant submission of details regarding the required study materials to the Education Department. She could not even tell when they would get the textbooks. There were also cases from Dimapur areas that students did not have their school buildings and their teachers were compelled to take classes under trees.
Now, one can easily imagine what would be the fate of thousands of poor students in far flung areas of the State if students studying in the Dimapur areas did not receive their textbooks till now.
It is really painful to see the innocent and extremely underprivileged students going to their schools in far flung areas of the State. These poorest of the poor students have to walk kilometers in some villages to reach their schools, most of which do not have walls, toilet facilities, class rooms, etc. In many places, one or two teachers will run the schools, while in some places one or two students are found to be only students. But on paper, it claimed enrolments of students in Government schools in remote villages are increasing.
The fact is these poor students have been undergoing all kinds of man-made tragedies from the day they started going to schools. Large number of students in extremely remote and inaccessible villages may not even know where they are going and for what purpose because many of them did not see their textbooks throughout the academic sessions. They just appeared their final exams without seeing even once their textbooks, forget about not getting their school uniforms and mid-day meals. These are the stories used to float every now and then.
These students are the children of the poorest of the poor who live in the villages and hardly know beyond their village activities. The reality is that they are born in their village, live there and die there without even seeing their neighborhoods. Their village is their own world. It is this situation that the authority continues to indulge in various forms of corruptions and on rare occasions, student bodies from those affected areas aired their grievances that hundreds of students had to appear their final exams without seeing even once their textbooks.
On the other hand, there have been agitations by the teachers for quite some time affecting educational careers of thousands of students across the State. They said they had not received their salaries for the last four months and for which they had already submitted number of representations to the Government, besides various forms of agitations to release their pending salaries. The other day, these teachers took out a silent procession from old MLA Hostel Junction to Raj Bhavan and submitted an ultimatum to the Governor with a 15 days’ time to address their issue. These agitating teachers are Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) teachers.
SSA is Government of India’s flagship program for achievement of Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE) in a time bound manner, as mandated by 86th amendment to the Constitution of India making free and compulsory Education to the Children of 6-14 years age group, a Fundamental Right.
SSA is being implemented in partnership with State Governments to cover the entire country and address the needs of 192 million children in 1.1 million habitations.
The program seeks to open new schools in those habitations which do not have schooling facilities and strengthen existing school infrastructure through provision of additional class rooms, toilets, drinking water, maintenance grant and school improvement grants.
Existing schools with inadequate teacher strength are provided with additional teachers, while the capacity of existing teachers is being strengthened by extensive training, grants for developing teaching-learning materials and strengthening of the academic support structure at a cluster, block and district level.
SSA seeks to provide quality elementary education including life skills. SSA has a special focus on girl’s education and children with special needs. SSA also seeks to provide computer education to bridge the digital divide.
Under SSA, the Nagaland State has received an amount of Rs 21665.89 lakhs (Rupees two hundred sixteen crore sixty five lakh eighty nine thousand) from the Government of India since 2008. The current SSA teachers in Nagaland are part of this scheme and their salaries should not be any problem. Because these SSA teachers’ issue has got nothing to do with the State budget. It does not at all affect the State’s exchequer.
Now the pertinent questions are how many students benefited from this SSA scheme in the State? And also why couldn’t students get their textbooks, and thereby forcing them to appear their exams without seeing once their textbooks. How many school buildings have been constructed under SSA in the State?
Why has the concerned department remained silent while educational systems in most of the government schools have been deteriorating day by day? Why couldn’t the department come up with some ideas as to how the issue could be solved? What is the Minister in-charge of School Education doing? Is he thinking to do something to mitigate the problems or has he exhausted any means to solve the problem? Can he remain silent?