Silent Exclusion in Education

Aarobai of Alkesur Village in Pathrai Panchayat of Seoni district, (Madhya Pradesh) is illiterate herself, but she started sending her children to school with lot of expectations that their lives would get better. But now, she is in serious doubt whether education would really make a difference for her children. Anger is simmering within her regarding the educational system. Not because she remained illiterate, but because the present education system is churning out corrupt and exploitative citizens of future.

The 80 children of the government school in Alkesur do not become free of burden just by appearing for exams, but they have to pay from Rs 5 to Rs 25 to the teacher after every exam (even the first and second term school level exams) to know the results. This year the results were not announced for a month because the students did not pay the bribe to the teacher. The villagers are very angry but the typical government system forces them to accept the corruption. The school-going children of Alkesur silently ask a question whether this is not a crime done to them and if it so, then who is the criminal and who would punish the criminal? Now the issue is that whether Constitution matter or not?

Education has now become a constitutional fundamental right and since education is the basic for shaping up life of a child, thus it has no alternative too. But the importance of education itself has made it a marketable commodity. This commodity is now being sold in big luxurious mall-like schools as also on footpaths. You can find 12 schools on a 200 meter long street of Karond slum in Bhopal, but it is difficult to identify these schools on certain indicators required for existence. Generally it is deduced that education can play a big role in creating revolution against exploitation and inequity because education would help raise knowledge and sensitivity levels and encourage them to create a better society. But if the students of Alkesur were forced to bribe none else but their own teacher with aware minds, this would impact their minds and shape their future behavior negatively.

Generally when corruption in education is discussed, it is considered that money exchange hands in aspects like appointment of teachers, transfer, construction and supply of material, but a study on Corruption in India (2005) reveals shocking details like – the parents/guardians pay bribe worth Rs 4137 crore every year to get mundane work of their children done in the school. In India, children of 8.2 crore study in schools and of these 2.4 crores are urban families and 5.8 crores are rural families. Of these 0.40 crore urban families and 1.1 crore rural families paid bribes to get work done in educational institutions and education department. Those families that are forced to use `alternative of bribe' pay an average sum of Rs 2744 per year. In a country where the per capita income is Rs 12416, such a sum can affect standard of living a lot, and even can change the priorities of life drastically.

In Madhya Pradesh it has been accepted that the government education system is in its last leg of life and thus there is no revolutionary or political interest in improving the quality or system of education. The policy makers and the influencers (officers and peoples' representatives) know that business of education at present is a profit-making proposition. Thus government just wants to create awareness about education among people so that they can go and seek `educational services' at high cost from private institutions. The situation of the government schools has been made so bad that even the poor and middle class people don't prefer sending their children to these schools. The situation is such that at present as much as 26.83 percent (almost 25000) schools in the state do not have constructed class rooms according to the Report of District Information System for Education (released in April 2007) and classes are held in open ground, below trees and in cattle sheds. Almost 2700 buildings are in such conditions that they can collapse any time.

Several provisions have been made to regularize the presence of teachers in schools, but in rural and tribal areas, the teachers at primary level attend school only for eight to 11 days in a month. In such situation how many children would become educated is a question that is taking enormous shape by the day. Anyhow, the quality of education is already in questions.

It is not as if the society or some outside elements claim the syllabus or the educational system to be corrupt or low standard. The government itself nurtures disparity and inequity. The state government conducts a different course in its school on which there is neither any constructive research nor any efforts to improve. On other hand the central group, through the Central boards of education dreams of a modern education and the schools affiliated to these boards run a very different course in the state. Thus in such confusing and contradictory situation, the parents and children are forced to look towards the market of education.

The government has handed over entire education system to teachers on contract like the shikshakarmis, contract teachers or gurujis (all of them are Para-Teachers). They do the teaching job but do not have the status or teachers. They neither get proper training nor the respect due to teachers. They are entirely `temporary workers' working on poor pay. Isn't it surprising that these temporary teachers pay bribe of Rs 50000 to one lakh to get posting in schools of choice after getting this job worth Rs 3000 per month? Saying that they `pay' the bribe is valid, because corruption has become inseparable part of the system and flows through its veins. Among the 379385 para teachers in MP, 117502 work in Madhya Pradesh and according to an analysis, almost 41 percent of the teachers pay an average of Rs 50000 each to get the appointments. Thus indirectly a financial burden of Rs 240 crores come on the children and their families, because the teachers who spend so much in getting the job would try to recover the amount from the children or would shut the schools and look for alternative source of income.

The issue is not only about government education system. The results of study on Corruption in India (2005) make it clear that the private schools recover a large sum of money for maintenance of infrastructure, academic programmes, purchase of equipments and to extend various other facilities. Each family pays average Rs 12000 to Rs 3.5 lakhs per year to get the fundamental right of education and surprisingly these institutions get big rebate on taxes and other facilities like land cost from the government. As per rules, children of poor families should get free education in the private schools, but schools do not care the rule.

The parents whose children study in private schools know that bribe is being taken from them under various pretexts but studies show that they remain anxious about the future of the their children, because asking questions lead to bad behavior with the kids and their exam results are manipulated. The parents are not even told how was the amount paid by them used by the schools.

It is clear that education system – whether government or private – does not have any accountability for the teachers and management. They consider themselves free of legal and social responsibilities. This is reason that corruption is not only involved in the management of education system, but it has become ingrained deep in the entire system. The Alkesur village is just an example. Millions of children in thousands of schools in MP are witness to the unashamed display of corrupt practices in schools and this is certain to impact their view towards society and change it forever.

Government and social groups should accept basically that education being the constitutional right of children; it is the responsibility of the state to provide sincere education and academic atmosphere to the children. It is not binding upon the children to accept bad conditions and corrupt practices. If this diseased system were not changed, then the future citizens would not be responsible towards society but only towards self-interest and corruption. It is a valid point of the children that this is a kind of violence with them and the state and society would have to show deep will to liberate them of this violence.

Sachin Kumar Jain

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