India: Urgent Need To Provide Quality Education For Poor Schoolchildren – OpEd


The most serious harm and injustice being done to the millions of poor families all over India is the lack of availability of quality education for their children.

No doubt, government of India and state governments repeatedly say that they are committed to the task of providing good education to the poor children and have been allotting several millions of rupees year after year towards improving and maintaining infrastructure facilities in the government schools from primary class level. Several states provide noon meal to the poor children studying in the schools apart from providing free uniforms, text books and note books and in some states even foot wear, school bags, cycles and laptops..

These government schools are solely meant for the benefit of the students from poor families, where the fees are low or nil and teachers are reasonably qualified and well paid. But, the problem is that the school administration, which are under the control of state governments are poor. While the funds are allotted, even the basic amenities are not available or they are maintained in very poor condition in several schools ,as the money allotted for the purpose is often diverted and misused.

No minister , members of legislative assemblies and parliament or government employees or teachers serving in the government schools send their children to study in government schools.

It is encouraging to note that the poor families all over India now realise that the best that they can do for their children is to provide them quality education, that would enable them to equip themselves to improve their life prospects. Parents keep track of the progress of their children in the schools as best as they can, given their poverty conditions and day today struggle to make a living.

However, finding the extremely poor conditions in several government schools particularly in rural areas and lack of discipline there due to poor administration, the poor families think that education in private schools would alone meet the quality education need for their children. However, they do not have the money and resources to pay the exhorbitant fees demanded by the private schools , which are now mostly run like business enterprises, with some of them being owned by politicians or their family members.

It is reported that in several government schools and those run by local administration like corporation and municipalities and panchayats, the number of students joining are steadily coming down. In recent times, governments have been forced to close down some of these schools due to want of students , particularly in rural areas.

Poor families are pained by the desperate conditions that they face due to their inability to ensure quality education for their children. They run from pillar to post to find money to meet the fees demanded by the private schools and beg and plead for support from those in the affordable income group and non governmental organisations. . Some of them do help but it nowhere meet the need of lakhs of poor families. In desperate conditions, poor families borrow money at exhorbitant interest from private money lenders to pay the fees demanded by the private schools and in the process, the poor families get into debt trap.

In such situation, the only way out is to ensure that the government schools would be better administered. One rarely hears about the ministers or top bureaucrats visiting the government schools to see the conditions for themselves and motivate the officials and teachers to turn out better performance. If at all they visit occasionally, such visits are made only with much fanfare and treating them like photo opportunity.

There is urgent need to retrieve the government schools from the present deplorable conditions.

Many poor families seem to wonder as to why Prime Minister Modi who has paid so much of attention to many basic issues such as clean India, construction of toilets for poor families etc. have not kept his focus on improving the government school administration.

In today’s India where there are around 1.3 billion people, several state governments , hundreds of ministers and thousands of bureaucrats, people look upon to Prime Minister Modi to find solution even for their problems

Many people now think that the only way to visibly improve the conditions in the government schools all over India is that the Prime Minister Modi should make it a point to visit government schools whenever he goes on tour, though most of the government schools are run by state governments. He may also ask his ministers and state ministers to follow this practice.

This would certainly promote better conditions and climate in the government schools and ensure better supervision., apart from focusing the national attention on this much needed support for the poor students.

Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the highly respected former President of India did a world of good for young student community by visiting the schools regularly and interacting with them when he was the President of India. This gesture was much appreciated by everyone. But, most of the schools that he visited were not government schools.

While Prime Minister Modi is an extremely busy person and he is already reported to be working more than eighteen hours a day, many people think that Prime Minister should still find sometime to visit the government schools often , as no function can be more important than ensuring quality education for poor students of India who are in the formative age group.

Today, it appears that every initiative in India has to be taken only by the Prime Minister for the matter to move on with the speed that it deserves and people think that unless Mr. Modi intervenes, visible and positive change for the better will not happen in the government schools.

By this exercise, the Prime Minister would benefit the poor families immensely and catch their imagination, which is important to give them hope that the government understands their plight and which would improve their morale.

This is one sure way to strengthen fibre and fabric of Indian society.

N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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