State of Elementary Education in Odisha in the context of RTE: After one year
With the Act remaining silent on the appointment of regular teachers in schools, the Government of Odisha has gone ahead and initiated a process of recruiting contractual teachers for addressing the problem of teacher shortage. Needless to say, this will only paralyse the entire school education system for the coming 30 to 35 years. Past experience clearly shows that contractual teachers lose interest very fast as they are paid far less than the regular teachers but are asked to perform the same amount of work.
We all know that people, while in their youth work with a lot of sincerity and commitment. At the same time young minds are also strong rebels against injustice. Here, in Odisha, the education department is creating such an arrangement in which the youth, because of the disparity and discrimination in salaries, will be forced to become insincere. The arrangement of having para teachers is nothing but a systematic attempt to corrupt thousands of youth who otherwise would have served millions of children with a lot of dedication and commitment.
Further, in the recruitment process being adopted, anybody from any district can apply for teacher-ship in any district. What will happen as a result, people from advanced districts, because of their educational advantage, will score over aspirants form the backward districts and will get appointed. Limiting appointments to only local candidates is what should have ideally happened as it could have ensured that people from one district served in the same district.
The current practice will give rise to a series of problems. First, this will give rise to strong resentment among the millions of unemployed youth from the backward districts, and chances of a law and order situation may not be ruled out. Secondly, in a state like Odisha, the tribals constitute 23% of total population. Their language and culture is very different from the so called mainstream Odia. Lack of facilities to be taught in their own language and by teachers who know their language constitutes one of the main reasons why the tribal children get pushed out of the fold of school education. Hence, allowing people from advanced districts to serve in the tribal backward districts will only aggravate the problem.
Government of Odisha claims that the MLE programme being implemented by it in select schools on an experimental basis is hugely successful. In this MLE experiment, local teachers well versed with the languages of children are recruited with the help of School Management Committees. However, is it not ironic that such teachers, instead of being trained in regular teacher training institutes, are trained by an MLE resource group, who might have expertise in tribal language and culture but lack any expertise in teacher training. Furthermore, if the MLE programme is hailed as an extremely successful programme, what is preventing the government from placing such teachers in tribal schools. What do such tall claims mount to, if not a rhetoric, especially when the Government, by opening up the recruitment process to one and all, has ensured that teacher aspirants from tribal backward districts do not enter education system. Inclusion of a large number of tribal teachers would have gone a long way in arresting the drop-out syndrome. The stock-taking team may like to consider this issue while sending recommendations to the Government of India.
The Odisha Government claims to have taken steps to appoint 24 thousand teachers for meeting the teacher-students ratio as stipulated in the RTE Act. However, in a written reply to a question in the state assembly , the honourable Minister of School and Mass Education states that on 1 May 2011, as many as 47,718 posts remained vacant. (The Telepgraph,26.11.2010).
A few days ago, RTE activist Khaturam Sunani of Nuapada district filed an RTI application asking for information on which schools in the district had vacancies and which schools had surplus teachers. The response from the district administration revealed that the education epartment is yet to take any steps to rationalise the availability of teachers.
No special effort has been made to identify the out of school children. Government of Odisha claims to have collected information on the out of school children with the help of teachers. We all know how authentic that information is likely to be. Recently Sikshasandhan conducted a quick survey in a small pocket of one GP - Kalamagadia Grama Panchayat - to identify the out of school children. One would be surprised to note that while the government records placed the number of such children at 3, Sikshasandhan survey team identified 337 children to be out-of-school. This is no effort to blame the teachers. Collection of authentic information requires time. In this case, the teachers were hardly given any time for furnishing the information. This leads to the large question – how would the schools ensure special training such children who have not been counted in the first place.
Although, a chairman of SCPCR has been appointed, the SCPCR committee has not been constituted yet. State advisory committee is yet to be formed in Odisha. ‘Local authority’ has not been defined yet. Guidelines for forming SMCs have been circulated and necessary action has been taken to constitute SMCs in all schools.
A student help-line has been set up for receiving grievances from students and parents. Special squads have been set up for school monitoring.
NGOs in Odisha have been quite actively facilitating and monitoring the implementation of the RCFCE Act 2009. Sustained appeals by a group of activists resulted in the High Court of Odisha issued a directive the Government of Odisha to fine a DAV school for conducting screening tests, a clear violation of the Act. The school had conducted screening tests during the last academic session during the admission.
Barring a few hastily organised workshops on RTE for District Inspector of Schools , BRCC, and CRCC coordinators, precious little has been done by the Government of Odisha to increase awareness on the Act among community members, PRI members and even school teachers.
No special effort has been made for bringing children from tribal and other minority groups into schools . Rather a series of populist measures such as defining dress codes for teachers, gifting bicycles to girls, providing children with free school uniforms, ties, boots and belts have been taken that are of very little use in improving the overall situation of elementary education in the state.