Day 2 - Refreshing experience at the high school

19th Jan 2009

Late start to the day as the office of the collector had some difficulty arranging for transportation for us. They would need a vehicle which could fit in 10 of us with some amount of comfort. And what a unique vehicle they got us. RTV! They don’t manufacture them anymore. But I loved the vehicle.

Hindustan Motors ki RTV!!

We stopped at chegaon Makhan to pick up someone who could show us some villages. The stop was the Govt. Utkrusht high school Shikshan shaala. We decided to check out the school for 5-10 mins. We ended up spending close to 45 mins. It was a joy talking to students of Class XI science. It was wonderful to see so many girls in the class. I was later informed that most girls who continued beyond Class 4 did finish their class 10 and class 12. Actually, the general awareness about the benefits of education was quite high in the district as we later found out.

Swapnil, Samir and I with the Class XI schoolboys.Do not miss Kunal and Mitesh in the background talking to one school boy in the background

We met Arjun Patel and Rajendra Prajapati, 2 students of the same class as the girls (Anusha and Bhoomika) chatted with the girls and the lady teachers. Arjun wants to become a collector one day. He was asking us for guidance. He didn’t know how to go about becoming a collector. Well, most of us too had a very sketchy idea of the roadmap he would have to follow on his way to becoming an IAS officer. (We are in IIM! Ask us about MBA, Engg, CA,CFA :p ) Rajendra had a very clear idea. He said one should only become either an Army man or a Terrorist. That’s the only way you can attain fame he believes! Most of them are not sure about their future. They say they would most probably join farming or do some meager industrial workers job as higher education is out of bounds. Most people who do continue their education either join the government ITIs or join polytechnic institutes. College education is expensive and far from the village. No one wants to travel far to Khandwa or even go outstation to Indore/Bhopal/Mumbai. General attitude was that they wanted to study further but didn’t know how they would. They felt that the books given by the school were of no use (Now, that’s something I have always felt throughout my life!) They wanted counseling. They did not know what options available to them were. They wanted financial assistance. They wanted to study in private engineering colleges but spending Rs.50, 000 per year in an engineering college was too much. They could read English but were not comfortable speaking in it.

Bhoomika interacting with girl students and their Teacher (extreme right). Don'tget fooled by the laptop :) It's Anusha's!

We spent more than an hour at the school. It was a touching experience. It's difficult for me to put the feeling in words. Greesh and Arvind spoke to the Principal. The principal's children were in NIRMA and Symbiosis Pune! She came across as an extremely committed lady.

Most guys in Class XI had heard about the internet and most knew more or less about it. However, not too many of them had any real experience using it. The computer in the school equipped with internet faced 2 problems - 1) No power 2) No one to teach. However, we felt they just had to solve the first problem as students are smart enough to pick it up themselves by using more of it.

Based on our interaction and observations major issues were:

1) Acute shortage of Manpower: The high school we visited had 16 teachers for over 800 students at Chegaon Makhan. Also very few teachers were available for primary schools. There was high level of absenteeism.

2) Lack of skilled teachers: Quality of applicants for the posts of primary teachers was not satisfactory. High turnover rate is seen. The ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan’ is heavily dependent on the performance of these teachers at the primary level.

3) Lack of adequate number of High Schools: Village students need to travel long distances to reach the nearest high school. This is an important factor leading to the dropout rate. Girl students are high unlikely to continue education in this scenario and even boy students get disillusioned by the daily rigmarole of travelling long distances. A lot of village Sarpanches we met had this demand of a high school in their own village.

4) Lack of computer and internet facilities: Even if a high school has computers, it does not have a trained teacher to teach them or any electricity most of the time.

5) High turnover rate among teachers: The better teachers and the more qualified ones always look to move towards greener pastures in the cities or bigger towns.

6) High cost of Books and other materials: Students find the books and the tools required for higher education to be very expensive. That is another deterrent for them to pursue higher education beyond 10th or 12th Std

7) Cost of College education: Tuition fees, Travel, Food, Accommodation, Books – the overall cost of this package is too high for the villagers to want to send their children to college