As a part of my fellowship, I got placed in Quest Alliance at Samatipur, Bihar. Here, we run a program called Anandshala which aims to prevent the students from dropping out of school. We strongly believe that schools can be joyful learning spaces if students and teachers think and express themselves freely.
Recently, the entire Quest Alliance Bihar team went to Bangalore for a 5-day annual meet. There, it was decided that I’ll be going alone for field visits to schools in rural areas. It sounds easy but the challenge was that I don’t know Hindi well. One morning, at 8, I took my bag, left the room and started to walk towards a shop where usually a lot of auto-rickshaws stand. On my way, I was practicing lines in my head on how to ask for an address in Hindi. A kid from my neighborhood had helped in translation. After hours of struggle, changing a bus, two auto-rickshaws and walking for 6 km, I finally reached the school.
As soon as I entered the campus I introduced myself to the principal and 4 teachers for 260 students from class one to eight. In the initial interaction, they said that the average attendance of the school is around 50-57 %, stating financial condition of the families, the main reason behind the absence rate. I also got to know that the families who enroll their children in the government schools send them to their relatives who are settled in cities so that these kids can earn some money by working part-time and learn skills to support the family.
An article from Hindustan times says that nearly 70% of Bihar struggles below the poverty line. The families have to work every day just for survival. If someone is unwell or physically challenged, the situation is hard to imagine. In such conditions, it is difficult for parents to see their children building a future with education. It’s natural to think what if my child doesn’t succeed in the competitive world of schools. In a few days, I met a student of 8th standard who was absent for 27 days and when I asked him why, he didn’t answer. After some time, we again met outside the school and he began to talk.
Hi! My name is Paresh*. I come from a family of 6 including me, my parents, grandparents and a younger sister studying in 6th standard. We feed on the income from a local shop in my village. My parents used to work as farmer-laborers in fields and the income hardly covered the house rent. Due to an illness, my father is unable to work since last 8 months and needs someone to look after him. It’s not that I don’t want to come to school but I need to be at home to take care of him.
In further conversations, I got to know that when Paresh used to attend school regularly, he would come around 9, clean the field and classrooms with others, stand in line for morning assembly and spend the day in classroom with students from all classes as the teachers are less. “I never knew whether the teacher is teaching to my class or others.”, said Paresh. After midday meal, they would again sit in class for an hour, struggling to understand without textbooks as there were only 3 textbooks for 70 students. In words of Paresh,
Generally, the idea behind coming to school is to earn knowledge and skills to later earn the money. But, when I’m looking after my family’s shop, I get to talk to so many new people which lets me learn more than sitting in the class which also supporting my family with their financial needs. If there’s good quality of education that’s also interesting and will help shape my future, I will come to school regularly and I’m sure my friends would do it too. Teachers will not have to worry about home visits as instructed.
Do you eat food if it’s stale?
Do you breathe air if it’s filthy?
Do you think kids should continue their school education if they aren’t learning?
Is Paresh right to not attend the school?
*Name changed to protect identity
Dear shashidhar, nicely written an article about how internal obstacles facing by marginalized community and their children. Since I am working for govt schools of karnataka from last few years, I found many such examples. So, we are the development thinkers try to bring changes in the system.
Quite impressive article.I know you have a language barrier,but although you have tried well to focusing the basic problem of government school children.I applaud you for your work,and keep going on .all the best👍
thank you for the support
It is a little subjective. In Paresh’s case of course, the response tends to be in one side more than the other. But for a lot of kids, the school is an upgrade just in terms of the mid day meal, some kind of learning (whether or not it is satisfactory levels is a different debate), time spent well and friends. For a lucky odd one, perhaps a role model too. I know it sounds like i am expecting the school to do just what a creche would do. It also comes from my own world view that lets get access sorted first, quality is a luxury topic …
Good debate. Atleast the precious childhood would be secured
Good debate. Atleast the children will have some experience. Also a child has to be a child not a caregiver for the family