The Internet can’t agree if it was Irish poet WB Yeats who said education was lighting a fire and not filling a bucket. But for lakhs of students in Madhya Pradesh, this conundrum is thoroughly worthless.
These students go to schools where there is literally no light. In a reply to the Madhya Pradesh assembly last year, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s government admitted that 70 years after independence, while the central government brags about electrifying more villages than any previous regime, there are still more than one lakh schools in the BJP-ruled state that do not have power.
Despicable scenes welcomed an NDTV team that visited the government schools in Madhya Pradesh’s Shajapur, Aagar-Malwa, Shyopur districts. Dilapidated buildings, leaky roofs and dingy rooms see dozens of eager students huddled on mats in front a patchy chalkboard flanked by a single teacher. Computer rooms and laboratories lie locked up and gathering dust.
There are more than 17,000 schools in Madhya Pradesh that have only one teacher. Accounting for one-sixth of “single-teacher” schools in India, the state tops a disgraceful list, showed a report tabled in the parliament last year. More than 50,000 teaching positions are still lying vacant across the state.
Amna Sultan, a primary teacher from Ukawata village, said, “I am posted here as Urdu teacher. But since we don’t have as many teachers, I have to teach English and Hindi also. We don’t have anyone for maths and science. We don’t have electricity, so we can’t operate computers.”
Manoj Sagar, an assistant teacher at the Bijanagri Secondary School, said, “We don’t have electricity for the past four-five years. We have written letters to authorities but nothing has been done so far.”
The students said they cannot study properly. Most have never seen computers in school. Despite the state government advertising its ‘Headstart’ programme launched in 2003 to prioritise computer education, students are yet to learn the basics of computers because of the lack of electricity.
To counter the dearth of regular teachers, the state government used to fill the gap by recruiting guest teachers but in this academic session even that system has been put on hold.
Madhya Pradesh education minister Vijay Shah said the state government will take a decision regarding the recruitment of guest teachers by October – six months into the ongoing academic year. “There are around 1.5 lakh schools, we have limited resources,” he said.