Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Whither Right to Education

According to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 (RTE Act), all children in India are entitled to free quality education upto class eight and it is compulsory to ensure this for both the parents and the Government. Since in the case of the vast majority of people in this country it is not possible to expend substantial sums of money on the education of their children, the responsibility devolves in their case on the Government. Since education is primarily the responsibility of State Governments under the seventh schedule of the Indian Constitution, it is these that have to provide most of the funds to implement the RTE Act with support from the Central Government.
The Rani Kajal Jeevan Shala (RKJS) in Kakrana village in Alirajpur district is a residential school run by the Kalpantar Shikshan Kendra that is associated with the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath (KMCS). The school was set up in 2000 as an alternative to the moribund Government school system which despite all the efforts of KMCS could not be improved because of the severe lack of will on the part of the Government to increase investments in school education. There was some hope that things would improve after the passage of the RTE Act in 2009, as there was considerable hype at that time that the Central Government would augment the meagre resources being allocated by the State Governments to school education. However, those hopes have been belied and as the Annual Status of Education Reports of the NGO Pratham have consistently shown the quality of education is continually going down, especially in Madhya Pradesh.
Recently, the RKJS conducted a quick survey of 14 schools in its vicinity including itself, 8 primary with teaching up to class five and 6 middle with teaching up to class 8. Two schools among these were comparatively better funded. One was the special Government middle school cum hostel for girls in the Tehsil headquarters, Sondwa and the other the RKJS itself. While these two schools met most of the parameters stipulated in the RTE Act with regard to facilities and teacher qualifications and numbers, the situation of the others is pathetic with lack of properly maintained classrooms, toilets, playgrounds and qualified teachers. In most cases the schools are not running regularly.
What was even more disconcerting is that the data from the RKJS survey did not tally with that in the District Information System for Education (DISE) database maintained by the Central Government for these schools which latter was hopelessly wrong. The DISE website has this to say about the reliability of the data on it - "The School Data reported on this website is submitted by the School Head Master/Head Teacher through the District and State level authorities. Before data is submitted to the national level authorities, it is supposed to be first checked at the cluster level by the Cluster Resource Centre Coordinator. The MIS In-charge at the district level was then supposed to run the consistency module to check the inconsistency in the data before it is transmitted to State level authorities."  This means that the teachers are submitting false data and this is not being checked by the higher authorities before being posted on the DISE. When the data itself is wrong then there is no question of proper implementation of the RTE as the shortcomings will not surface and so will not be addressed. Thus, the DISE has a huge amount of false data on the basis of which higher level statistical analysis is done and the status of public primary education in this country continues to be moribund.
The RKJS has fairly good facilities including a library and video projection facilities in addition to the standard requirements and spends about Rs 15,000 a year per child on their education and the parents of the children spend about another Rs 5000 a year on their food. This is a very shoe string budget as the teachers and other staff work on minimum wages and the food is very simple.

Consequently, the education provided could be better if more funds were available. Yet it is one of the best schools in Alirajpur district and admission to it is much sought after by Adivasi parents who mostly migrate to Gujarat and are fed up with the dysfunctional Government school system. But this kind of one off effort by a people's organisation is not really the answer to the country's huge primary education needs which the Government should be fulfilling and isn't.

No comments: