Sordid story of schools

Education Minister has replied to a number of questions asked by the legislators. He was speaking on the floor of the House. His replies give a peep into the sordid and almost shameful condition in which a very large number of Government schools, particularly in rural areas of Jammu, are to be found. In fact it is a sad commentary on the Education Department which he has been heading for last two years. An impression which one gets after analyzing the replies is that the department is not run by human beings with a sense of duty and responsibility. The Coalition Government has been speaking about turnaround in the education sector but the sordid facts disclosed by the Education Minister reveal the gap between what is desired and what exists on the ground. Of course we do understand that two years is not enough time to bring about drastic changes in the situation existing for decades. As such the Coalition Government is not to be held responsible for the deficiencies and debilities. Nevertheless, what matters is to know whether the Government in place is seriously interested in bringing about a change in the situation and what steps it proposes to take. To that purpose the replies of the Education Minister are not very convincing.
To speak in concrete words, we are told that 3,000 schools are without principals. Why is it so and what hinders the Government in filling this large number of vacancies. Does politics or nepotism or bribery intervene in filling the vacancies? By and large, the lethargy and incompetence of the work force is also held responsible. Absence of a Principal in a school or college means that the factor of discipline is either lacking or grossly neglected. Its adverse impact cannot be ruled out. It gives rise to many bad things among the staff particularly that of playing truant. When we are told that a Minister or the Director of School Education made a surprise visit and found some teachers absent from duty, this becomes the banner line news for the newspapers. But no media person asks the visiting dignatory whether he has found any lacunae in the administrative area of the school for which only higher authorities can be held responsible. Do the media persons ask the visiting dignatory whether there are sufficient toilets in the school for boys and girls, or whether there is satisfactory arrangement of drinking water, seating capacity, playing grounds, registered eateries and other facilities available for the students? Just confining to one or two absentees among teaching or non-teaching staff is not the total ailment that is there.
If the roll of the students in a particular school is less than what it should be, the solution is not necessarily to transfer the teachers on the plea that extra staff has to be equitably distributed. That is not a solution, the solution is to go around the villages or localities that are expected to feed the school and motivate the people and parents to send their wards to the school. For this, the department should devise a regular policy and methodology for action. These issues are not resolved by an officer or two paying random visits to an educational institution. In most of the schools there is shortage of subject teachers especially in the subjects of mathematics and sciences. There is great emphasis on motivating our youth to take to the areas of science and technology. But this calls for availability of necessary facilities in the schools. The Minister disclosed that about 2,554 schools lack basic facilities. What are the basic facilities— school buildings, adequate staff, furniture and furnishing, play ground, library, laboratory, drinking water, electricity, dispensary, eatery and visitors’ room are among the primary requirements? These facilities have to be provided by the Government. What steps the Government is taking to provide these facilities was not mentioned by the Minister in his replies.
All that can be said is that it is a Herculean job to bring about modernity and sensibility in our schools especially those in rural and backward areas of the State. This asks not only for huge budget, which perhaps the State cannot afford, besides vision and activism. Unfortunately, after independence, our country has not been able to evolve a well thought of educational policy for various reasons. This has also had its impact on the State. However, we would like to impress upon the Education Minister and the Government as such that they should come out of complacency and take bold initiative of bringing about drastic reforms in education sector.