Saturday, January 26, 2008

Saa'nt (GrandDad)

Hrushikesha Mohanty

Saa'nt - the image of past
Sometimes creeps in
To tease
While I'm on wheels to catch up a schedule.

Hey! Child -
Skipped breakfast again ?
- the image speaks.

Wait Saa'nt,
I have a lecture at 8.30am
- Leave me to run.

Run, Run, Run - why ?

- the image sneaks in and teases again
When the day has squeezed me
And my limbs are numb.

Saa'nt, what should I do ?
- this's the game of life

The day taught me" - I put forth
As ever reluctant kid of the past
for his all pastering and cozings.

Look at the mango trees
You looped and swung.
Remember the festives
Made you crazy.

Take a break, I'll tell you
Some more stories of Life

The image fades away
At the mound sheltering him.

I'm denied to dream.

Education in My Village

Education in My Village

Hrushikesha Mohanty

Bangalpur, Orissa 756126, India

26th January 26, 2008

Thirst for knowledge has always been with us as the history of our ancient civilization records. There have been individual excellences of high caliber and their contributions glitter in knowledge reserve of human kind. But, these islands of fertile knowledge have not put our country at the highest pedestal of learning. Leave aside knowledge, even elementary education has not reached to the vast majority of our people. A visit to my ancestral village makes me humble, my pride takes a beating. When I take my guests from abroad around our heritage sites particularly in my home state Orissa I keep telling like any other Indians of the golden heritage we have. Visitors sensing host’s eager and anxiety of-course, kindly acknowledge and sometimes come out with high praises. But, all these melt down when they sharply ask an explanation on current precarious state of affairs of our country. Some of them come forward to alleviate my helplessness adding that India by this time should have been in a position to provide primary education to all of its children particularly when it’s boasting of its space and nuclear programmes as well as supremacy in information technology sector.


It’s not true that nothing has been done for primary education. A lot of water has flown under the bridge of primary education; the government plans and programmes are always there. All these have made some impacts but not enough for such a large population. What could be missing? People participation? Yes, I think so. The programmes fail or don’t make a dent due to lack enthusiasm of public. Public don’t see self in it. They don’t realize their roles in it. It’s unfortunate but true that many in public have distrust on government programmes. They think all these are for somebody to grease their pockets. The government machinery is not well equipped to carry out all these programmes. The same officer in ex-officio position heads several activities. And finally an officer resorts to meticulous file maintenance to prove his/her efficiency. Several social scientists and government thinkers have researched on to find causes of such failures. However, as a layman I feel a social problem of such dimension requires a social revolution.


The absence of such revolution creates a space for smart public institutes that has already trenched in urban areas. Government apathy to primary education has made government schools an anathema. At-least, in urban area an admission to government school is generally meant as a passage to unsuccessful career. Parents take pride in putting their kids in glittering public schools which are not necessarily a panacea for quality education. In rural areas school education is at its nadir. The school where I had my schooling once was one of the best schools in the district and many among its alumni are better placed. But, the same school is now at its worst with very few teachers, cramped sitting space and poor board results. Private education enterprises will sooner or later fill this void by setting up chain of schools. I don’t want to undermine this private effort on retailing of education at several outlets. I should not be misunderstood on doubting efficacy of this effort in terms of its social impacts just weighing purchase power of consumers (parents) from these outlets.


Not long before, in between 1970-80 there were a kind of renaissance among villagers and they got together to build schools and colleges in their locality. Everybody, poor or reach contributed in the form land, money, a stack of straw or his/her manual labour. I myself in my schooling days carried bamboos and straw stacks with my school mates from villages. Villagers used to seat together at the village common place to discuss on welfare of the school. There used to be boarding and lodging facilities for outstation teachers. And these teachers used to take care of students both day scholars as well as hostellers. This living with teachers and friends was beneficial in personality development, for imparting both formal as well as non-formal education. We used to grow our vegetable gardens, seasonal flower plants. There was a thrill to see your plants blooming and bearing fruits. Now, at this stage of my life I realize the usefulness of those activities though that time sometimes some of us used to grumble due to laziness. Particularly, its importance is now getting magnified when I see my kids’ sedentary life style and their tryst with text books. Of-course, for every kid his/her school has some specialty. But, ours is certainly different. Every brick and plant of the school talks to us when we pass by it even now. Every visit to the native place brings a nostalgic memory of the school days. The days were made beautiful by collective endeavors of people of the locality; they made their own schools; own them and saw it growing. But, alas the people of the same locality now show a peculiar indifference. These are no more their schools. These are either government aided or fully own by the government. Obviously, there has to be babus as well as netas for governing these schools. The result is disastrous.

Education in rural areas is a forgone conclusion; atleast in Orissa as I see now. Serious parents want to put their kids in urban schools. Of-course, many of them have left villages for livelihood. Economic boom of India as well as sustained disregard to agriculture have made Indian villages ghost hunting ground. I only see shadows of yester years when I visit my village in recent days. This is an issue of importance too. We will have it in another posting.


Something has gone wrong. There are many reasons and many commissions/committees have studied on it. And many of us can start enumerating these from our common sense. One issue I should mention which I feel quite urging - the relevance of education is somewhat got blurred. The bonhomie people have on education as I mentioned earlier just evaporated when they saw many of these kids in 1990-2000 were hanging around unemployed. Instead of supporting old parents the educated mass became a social burden. The direct mapping as society till now defines is education-white collar jobs. This notion somewhat killed the drive for education particularly in rural areas where educated kids found them unfit for earning livelihood. Love for education is idealistic obviously when there is fire in stomach. Bringing many to the fold of education will be comparatively easy as well as fast when a kid learns art of living in primary and then techniques to earn livelihood in secondary education itself. Particularly, it’s true for poor parents who can’t wait for long to get support from their kids.


I probably alike many of you wonder what can I do? Bringing back glory of education in rural areas requires bootstrapping. Every individual (particularly the first generation deserter like me) needs to look back and see what you can do to hear again the chants of “BarnaBodha” and “Panikia” at the village school and to see the kids giggle around that old banyan tree.

Note: The views are my personal only. It has nothing to do with my employer.

Currently located at Hyderabad, India.