India neglects its future generations in so many ways. Every year, around 17 lakh children die before completing five years of age. Over six lakh foetuses are aborted, mostly by educated parents, who are helped by trained doctors in ascertaining sex of the unborn child.

Regular reports indicate that around 43-45 per cent children suffer from malnutrition. Senior political leaders and Union ministers mock the poor with ridiculous statements that full meals could be had for Rs 5 or Rs 12. Are they taking ideas from the midday meal scheme? The tragic death of 27 children in a Bihar school uncovers the degradation of the system of governance to levels that could shame any human being. Not a single elected representative accepted any moral responsibility for the criminal negligence and pathetic levels of moral standards of human behaviour.

Courtesy electronic and print media, the entire country knows the extent of mismanagement of the much-hyped midday meal scheme that expects children to get a nutritious meal at the shocking rates of Rs 3.34 at primary and Rs 5 at upper primary level. And no such scheme works in India without ‘transmission losses’ at every stage. Is it not ridiculous what is being offered to children?

The Bihar government has ordered that the principal and teachers shall pre-taste the food. Ever since its inception, teachers have resisted being part of the midday scheme. The Allahabad High Court observes that teachers’ job is to teach, not to prepare meals. This question has been persistently asked from the beginning of the scheme, and equally ignored by the governments, resulting in heavy damages to the scheme. The entire system of education in Bihar has reached such levels of neglect over the last few decades that those with requisite resources prefer educating their children outside the state.

Expectations were too high when the current CM came to power. These stand totally belied today. Universities are not allowed to recruit regular faculty and are made to make do with part-time teachers and guest lecturers. In schools, only low honorarium-paid under-qualified and untrained teachers are being appointed. Insufficient emoluments and job insecurity demoralise these young persons from the first day itself. They demand regularisation, organise demonstration in Patna and are fiercely lathi-charged by the police which, on such occasions, act fully ‘gender neutral’ in inflicting blows. 

The Right to Education Act has failed to give functional schools. In states like Bihar, while government may claim progress in numbers, the quality has steadily declined.  The solution must be extricated from the complexities that abound in the system of healthcare and education. The teacher shall remain the key entity and he/she must be freed from the clutches of the politician-bureaucrat nexus that extends right from the state capital to the panchayat level. Time is ripe to generate a more focused demand—‘right to have right teachers in functional schools’. It requires well-qualified and suitably trained teachers who are given dignified emoluments and respect.

Further, people must ask their representatives what they shall do to give them a functional school having requisite infrastructure resources and trained teachers. To begin with, attention needs to be paid to teacher training institutions.

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court had effectively echoed the views of academics and scholars on June 15, 1993: “It is, therefore, needless to state that teachers should be subjected to rigorous training and rigid scrutiny of efficiency. It has greater relevance to the needs of the day. The ill-trained or substandard teachers would be detrimental to our education system, if not a punishment to our children. The government and the university must, therefore, take care to see that inadequacy in the training of teachers is not compounded by any extraneous considerations.” Sustained public effort and supportive action would ensure long-overdue reforms in schools for the masses

By J S Rajput

Courtesy: The New Indian Express, August 4, 2013

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