Is 5 6 Short For A 14 Year Old Boy Elementary Education in Orissa

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Elementary Education in Orissa

“We have been a developing nation for fifty years. It is time to see ourselves as a developed nation.” This is part of the speech of dr. Abdul Kalam in Hyderabad. Whenever we talk about a developed nation, suddenly education appears along with other major indicators such as economic growth rate, birth rate, death rate, infant mortality rate (IMR) and literacy rate. All these indicators are interconnected, and the literacy rate was the main determinant of the growth or decline of the other indicators. Even in Orissa there is ample evidence to show that low literacy rate correlates with high birth rate, high IMR and decreasing life expectancy rate. Recognition of this fact has created an awareness of the need to focus on literacy and basic education programs, not only as a matter of social justice, but more to foster economic growth, social well-being and social stability.

The Constitution of India obliges the state to provide free and compulsory education to all children up to 14 years of age. The literacy rate in Orissa during 1951 was 15.8% against an all-India average of 18.3%, which rose to 63.6% in 2001 against an all-India average of 65.4%. While the state’s male literacy rate of 63.1% in 1991 rose to 75.9% in 2001, the female literacy rate rose from 34.7% to 51.0%. There has been a steady improvement in literacy rates in the state over successive decades, resulting from the expansion of educational infrastructure both quantitatively and qualitatively.

In the period 1950-51. there were 9,801 primary schools with 16,525 teachers and 3.15 million students. There were 501 upper primary schools with 2,569 teachers and 40,000 students. There were also 172 secondary schools with 2,247 teachers and 16,000 students. From 1950-51. there was a significant increase in the number of educational institutions, enrollment and the number of teachers at all levels during successive planning periods. In 2003-2004, there are 44,416 primary schools with 52.54 lakh enrollment and 97 lakh teachers in the state. There is one primary school for every 3.5 square kilometers of area. The state government has established 14,233 upper primary schools for every 10.94 km of area in the state.

Issues of concern

Education is the key to the social and economic development of any society. It encompasses every sphere of human life. The level of literacy has a profound effect on the level of human development. There are major problems directly or indirectly affecting education in Orissa. First, the dropout rate in primary and upper primary schools becomes a major issue of concern. At the same time, the dropout rate became a major drag on the growing literacy rate which stood at 33.6% in the primary phase. But if you compare the dropout rate of girls and boys, the dropout rate for girls is 35.4% and for boys is 31.9%. The dropout rate in the upper grades of primary school was 57.5% in 2003-04. Of them, 56.5% of boys left the upper grade of primary school, while 58.6% of girls left school in the same year. Another issue is the infrastructure of the school buildings, which are in poor condition. And old or unsafe school buildings in our country are inadequate for the needs of school children. Many of them work in one room (or even outdoors) with poorly paid teachers.

Steps taken by the State Govt

Government of Orissa has always made concerted efforts to provide education to all. Some great initiatives have been taken to offer quality education for a brighter future not only for the Oriyas, but also for the state, ultimately for the nation. Some steps were directed towards the reform and renewal of the state education system. At the same time, there was a significant increase in the number of educational institutions, enrollment and the number of teachers at all levels during successive planning periods.

Central and state governments are expanding the provision of basic formal and non-formal education to achieve the goal of Universalization of Basic Education (UEE). Primary education is recognized as a fundamental right of all citizens of India. Directive principles of state policy envisage UEE as one of the main goals to be achieved and committed within a certain time frame. According to guidelines adopted at the national level, the state aims to provide access to primary schools within one kilometer and upper primary schools within three kilometers of settlements with 300 or more and 500 or more, respectively. In order to achieve the goal of universalizing primary education and improve quality, steps have been initiated to engage another 9,563 pairs of teachers under the State Plan.

Government of India’s flagship program ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ was launched at the national level to universalize primary education by ensuring community ownership and monitoring of the school system. The goals of the program are compulsory education for all children aged 6-14 by 2007. As part of the program, 780 new elementary schools were opened, 2,771 new upper elementary schools were opened and. 25,594 Swechasevi Sikhshya Sahayakas were appointed in 2003-04. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan program calls for community participation through effective decentralization – involving Village Education Committees (VECs), members of Panchayat Raj Institutions and Women’s Groups. It ensures the transparency and accountability of the school system towards the community. To learn the burden of the Directorate of Higher Education, the State Government has established three Regional Directorates at Bhubaneswar, Berhampur and Sambalpur. The regional directors of these directorates were given similar powers to the directors of higher education. Access to quality education is decreasing in Orissa today. The reason is lack of budget, weak management and decline of physical infrastructure, lack of teachers and their low salaries, outdated curricula, poverty and malnutrition, and the absence of parents and participation in society.

Obstacles to achieving the goal

Funds become the major hurdle for any development program in Orissa. In some cases it is surplus and the government cannot utilize the fund within the required time frame. On the other hand, it is a deficit. At every step and in every phase, we reach out to the Central Government, financial institutions for funds. How do you put education aside? The state has no money for primary education. Well, the fiscal deficit is certainly a problem, but it cannot be forgiven during a crisis if it is used to pave the way for a developed nation. The Government of Orissa fully supports the approach of universalization of primary education and the ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ scheme should be given the highest priority. But as we move towards the success of the program, we do not have the funds to provide students with study materials. With the help of the central government, the Government of Orissa provides study materials every year. For a state like Orissa, the government needs 3.5 million books for students up to class VII.

Generally, the government sanctioned eight million every year. In the budget for the current year, only four million was sanctioned, while about 30 million is needed for printing teaching materials. It has now become a routine matter for the government to sanction an inappropriate fund and ask for more money at the time when the books should reach the end user. This not only creates a bottleneck in a time-bound program but also wastes students’ valuable time struggling with a course without a course. Here I singled out one problem that occurs every year at the beginning of the school year. The government has compromised this issue without thinking about the future of young children.

Although it is a routine issue, why is the Government not considering this issue seriously?

Some other issues like educational infrastructure and appointment of good teachers with good salary are also taken into consideration. When appointing good teachers for this program, we need to think about the other side of the coin (ie good compensation). The state government has appointed 40,846 Shiksha Sahayakas under several schemes including District Primary Education Program (DPEP) and Sarba Siksha Abhijan (SSA). Due to budget deficit Shiksha Sahajaks compromise with the situation and are ready to work with less salary (i.e. Rs. 1500 per month), which is less than the salary of bonded labour. Despite this, the state government is unable to provide their share at least in time for the Shiksha Sahayakas. How can we expect quality education from a teacher who is struggling to survive in this expensive society? Recently, the state government has decided to increase the monthly honorarium of Siksha Sahayak from Rs.1500 to Rs.2000. This decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on October 20. It will cost the exchequer an additional Rs 25 crore annually. Apparently, zero percent of the credit goes to the state government. Although the central government supports 75 per cent of the estimated expenditure, this additional increase will be added to the aid bill. If Sarba Siksha Abhijan becomes a failed programme, then credit goes to the state government. The biggest obstacle is the lack of funds.

Conclusion

We compromise in every step of our life. How many days will we live with the ‘compromise’? Let’s stop compromising with our future and our future generation. At least the state government should give up primary education. Education makes a man a correct thinker. It tells a man how to think and how to decide. When the absolute number of literates in the country is constantly increasing from year to year, where are the instincts of a literate person? Where is your vote against government regression? But going beyond education programs requires a lot of political will and public pressure. Unfortunately, basic education is still a low priority for those in power. While the National Assembly is debating trivial issues, issues related to basic education are gathering dust. If the government does not take any rigid step then all children aged 6-14 will go to school by 2003, all children to complete 5 years of schooling by 2007 and all children to complete 8 years of school by 2010 will become utopian for us dream

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