Rajasthan: how a lowly employee inspired her village to rebuild its school
On the morning of 21 May 1993, almost everybody in Nal Budhan Sayyad, Khatik Pada and Mandi Sayeed Khan neighbourhoods of Agra was taken ill. The people started vomiting and frothing at the mouth; most had difficulty breathing as well. It soon emerged that their drinking water was "toxic". By the time the water supply was stopped, thousands of people had drank it and taken sick. Agra hospitals were overflowing. By the end of the day, 21 people had died.
Governor Motilal Vora announced magisterial and CID inquiries - UP was under President's Rule at the time - to assign responsibility for the tragedy and vowed to punish the guilty.
Sixteen years, and several governments later, the reports of the inquiries are still to be submitted.
Vohra had also promised Rs one lakh and a government job for the kin of each of the deceased. While they got the cash compensation, the jobs were never provided, the state's reply to an RTI request filed by Tajendra Rajoura, of Gandhi Smarak Sangharsh Samiti, has revealed.
That "private coaching" has become a parallel education system in this country is no secret. Now, the National Sample Survey Organisation has revealed the true extent of this enterprise.
Based on a survey of 66,000 households, the NSSO found that no less than 7.1 crore students across India - 4.1 crore are boys and the rest girls - take private tuitions. That is about 26% of all students.
It comes at considerable cost, accounting for 11-12% of the total expenditure of families. Contrary to popular perception, the phenomenon is not restricted to well off families - 48% students from affluent families go for coaching as do 30% students from poor households. According to NSSO report, "most of the tuitions are taken at the school-level".
In its report, the NSSO blames the "poor academic level of government schools" for the rise in the coaching industry. "Most class V students in government schools are not able to read a textbook for class II. In contrast, the syllabus of a KG class in private schools is equivalent to the curriculum of class II or class III in public schools," the report says.
It also blames "negligence of duty on the part of government teachers" for "putting this financial burden on students". Many public school teachers, it points out, "deliberately don't teach properly in classrooms and encourage students to take tuitions. They also help these students during examinations through unfair means."
The Model Govt Higher Secondary School at Garniya in Rajasthan's Pali district was so dilapidated, everybody feared it would crumble any day. Yet, nobody did anything about it. Until, that is, Sukhiya Devi, a lowly employee at the school, took the "mission" upon herself.
Sukhiya Devi decided to raise money for the renovation, and started out by donating Rs 11,000 herself. Inspired by her example, the other members of the staff and teachers at the school joined the "cause". They have collected about Rs 7,25,000 so far.
The school was opened on 2 October 1954. It was upgraded from primary to middle school in 1980 and nine years later to secondary school. It was made a higher secondary school in 2013. Infrastructure, however, didn't keep pace with the "upgradation". In the 62 years since it was opened, two classrooms and a big hall have been added. For years now, the roof leaks when it rains.
The Garsiya Gram Panchayat has now prepared a plan for the renovation of the school "in consultation with school staff and villagers", and, according to the sarpanch, the "work will begin soon after we consult the Panchayati Raj minister".