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Bihar’s cracked education system demand collective action

Every day I see a progress in and around my life, I worry about the students of high school I attended about Thirty years ago and all the students of government schools in Bihar and few other states. As we claim to have progressed in many fields, my school and other government schools in Bihar and many parts of the country have shown negative growth. Few days ago, the internet service provider got 5G installed at my Delhi residence, which reminded me of an incident last year. The Principal of my high school declined to take five computers, which I had managed to be donated to the school. Not only my school but about 90 per cent of the schools do not have computers in Bihar. On the one hand information technology is changing fast, students of such schools do not have early exposure to the computers. The government schools were doing alright about 30 years ago, but abnormal deterioration of schools makes me think, how badly we have been performing as a society and the state to upkeep our public-funded schools? Abandoning public-funded educational institutions and seeing them crashed will be one of the worst human-made disasters.

My school is a mirror of the education system in Bihar. Neither society nor the state machinery seem to be bothered. It is important to note that this school is located about 100 meters away from the Collector’s office and the residence. The roof plaster of dark classrooms has started coming down due to the absence of any repair work. The classrooms get waterlogged during the monsoon. In the absence of any light in the era of LED revolution, the students are forced to study and write exams in the dark. With only 5 teachers in the entire school for about 1500 students and only 01 teacher for class 11th and 12th and that too for music, almost all students go to private coaching institutions every day. While the coaching institutions serve as students’ real saviors, the teachers play their role in taking exams. One discipline which the school has maintained over the years and that has not changed is that each class has separate row seating for boys and girls.

If a high school located at the District Headquarter next to Collector’s office can go into cracks, imagine the educational institutions in remote areas. Ground situation and data from secondary sources reveal a very dark state of affairs in Bihar. About 70 per cent students have no access to library or they are unable to access books in the library. Only 38 per cent schools have ground for sports, which is so important for overall development of students. Only 40 per cent schools have electricity. Only about 54 per cent schools have boundary walls, which make the schools unsafe for students specially for the girls.

(Class 10 th of Harishankar Nayak High School, Katihar)

With a dropout rate of about 70% between grade 1 and grade 10, the low enrolment at college level is not surprising. Out of its total young population, only 1,78,833 students are enrolled in colleges and universities. In Bihar around 1,25,00,000 youth, aged between 18-23 years, will enter the job market without good quality education. This is precisely why Bihar produces largest numbers of migrant unskilled labourers.

All these are known to the political leaders, bureaucrats and citizens in the state.

However, everyone chose to remain silent spectator as the state move further down to lose its glory of being the land of Nalanda, Takshila and Vikramshila Universities. Those who can fix the problems have no skin in the game and thus they do not bother. They only visit the schools to either unfurl the flag or to attend the cultural events of students as guests. There is no reason why local MLAs and citizens together cannot fix the problems in the educational institutions but unfortunately, they do not see any political advantage or personal advantage in doing this. All of them are unable to understand one very important point that about 70 per cent students are attending government schools and they are the ones who will stay back in Bihar, most likely. Therefore, it is important to harness the potential of these students in order to bring prosperity in the state. Unfortunately, the parents of students attending such schools do not have voice or have limited understanding of how education can bring intra-generational change.

There is an urgent need to support all schools with minimum facilities including neatly built and well-maintained school premise; toilets; fans and lights; blackboards; bench and desks and sports facilities. Vacant teaching positions must be filled immediately with qualified teachers. As there are many unqualified teachers in the state schools, citizens can play an important role. There are people from different profession such as doctors; engineers; lawyers; sportspersons and students from every district studying in other states who visit their home districts during vacation can contribute few hours in week/month to educate students in nearby schools and colleges. Retired citizens can play very important role as they would have probably more time to spare. An unique initiative by volunteers of Edjustice People’s Campaign to foster Gyaan Daan Andolan is an answer to provide supplemental support by the society.

Once local people would be involved in schools and colleges, they would also get involved in the development process of the schools. Highly politicized and ineffective school Management Committees would also become more active due to citizen’s engagement. Instead of just criticizing the government and system, the citizens should participate actively in the process of rejuvenating public-funded educational institutions. Citizens engagement through Gyaan Daan model can be replicated and scaled-up in any district and state without any financial implication.

There are many students from Bihar cracking civil services, IITs and other prestigious exams across the country. They move on and become successful people in their lives. However, the state remained backward. In the absence of employment opportunities in the state, students once migrated, do not want to go back. There is a huge potential in them to contribute back specially in the education field as most of them are product of education. Once settled, people have lot more to contribute back.

No state can succeed without fixing its education system. No society can progress without harnessing the last mile human potential. No country can reduce the gap between the rich and poor without providing level-playing field to those who are not suitably placed, socially and geographically. With over 10 per cent of India’s population, Bihar’s capacity to deliver quality education is extremely important for overall growth of the country and specially for the state. When Bihar can build roads and solve the electricity problem, why can’t the state build and maintain educational institutions. Politicians, bureaucrats and every citizen of the state must understand that without fixing the education system and bring schools and colleges to a prestigious level, they will be responsible for ruining the human potential of students in the state. They all should understand that their time in History is now and thus consider the situation as an opportunity to act collectively.

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