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By Oken Jeet Sandham
Again, as usual, I have seen a story with a photograph in "The Morung Express" – February 16 Edition. "No textbooks, no classes" ran the lead story. The picture of Government Primary School, Mezoma was given as locked because of the non-availability of textbooks meant for teaching the students. I am not surprised at all as such things happened in many places in Nagaland.
The fact is in the remote areas, the poor students have been undergoing all kinds of man-made tragedies from the day they started going to schools. A large number of students in extremely remote and inaccessible villages may not even know where they are going and for what purpose because many of them did not see their textbooks throughout the academic sessions. There were reports that they appeared their final exams without seeing even once their textbooks, forget about not getting their school uniforms and mid-day meals. These are the stories used to float every now and then.
Sometime, in an early part of 2014, some complaints surfaced from Dimapur areas that the students and teachers from government Town Middle School, located in Half Nagarjan area were reported to have waited for government’s action to deliver the textbooks to the students before their exams started. The shocking exposé was the Headmistress of the school admitted that all such unwanted thing had happened in spite of their constant submission of details regarding the required study materials to the Education Department. She could not even tell when they would get the textbooks. There were also cases from Dimapur areas that students did not have their school buildings and their teachers were compelled to take classes under trees.
Now, one can easily imagine what would be the fate of thousands of poor students in far-flung areas of the State if students studying in Mezoma, near Kohima and Dimapur areas did not receive their textbooks till now.
It is really painful to see the innocent and extremely underprivileged students going to their schools in far-flung areas of the State. They have to walk kilometers in some villages to reach their schools, and many of them do not have walls, toilet facilities, classrooms, etc. In many places, one or two teachers will run the schools while in some places one or two students are found to be only students. But on paper, it claimed enrollments of students in Government schools in remote villages are increasing.
They live in the villages and hardly know beyond their village activities. The reality is that they are born in their village, live there and die there without even seeing their neighborhoods. Their village is their own world. It is this situation that the authority continues to indulge in various forms of corruptions and in rare occasions, student bodies from those affected areas aired their grievances that hundreds of students had to appear their final exams without seeing even once their textbooks.
From time to time, teachers appointed under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) used to protests against non-releasing of their salaries for months and that went up to even six months. During such time, educational careers of thousands of students were affected.
SSA is Government of India’s flagship program for the achievement of Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE) in a time bound manner, as mandated by 86th amendment to the Constitution of India making free and compulsory Education to the Children of 6-14 years age group, a Fundamental Right.
SSA is being implemented in partnership with State Governments to cover the entire country and address the needs of 192 million children in 1.1 million habitations.
The program seeks to open new schools in those habitations which do not have schooling facilities and strengthen existing school infrastructure through provision of additional classrooms, toilets, drinking water, maintenance grant and school improvement grants.
Existing schools with inadequate teacher strength are provided with additional teachers while the capacity of existing teachers is being strengthened by extensive training, grants for developing teaching-learning materials and strengthening of the academic support structure at a cluster, block, and district level.
SSA seeks to provide quality elementary education including life skills. SSA has a special focus on girl’s education and children with special needs. SSA also seeks to provide computer education to bridge the digital divide.
Total Expenditures on Salaries and Allowances in Education Department, Nagaland for the year 2015-16 comes to Rs 99999.96 lakh. Out of this, Rs 4554.00 lakh comes under CSS. Education Department has a budgeted amount of Rs 139292.71 lakh (Rupees one thousand three hundred ninety-two crore ninety-two lakh seventy-one thousand only).
Why has the concerned department remained silent while educational systems in most of the government schools have been deteriorating day by day? Why couldn’t the department come up with some ideas as to how the issue could be solved? How many school buildings have been constructed under SSA in the State? Why can't the Government pay salaries, issue textbooks or uniforms to students on time?