Rural Education in India

Problems and Solutions

Author: Mr. GouravJaiswal

With the educational model changing from local to global, safety and security has become all the more necessary but complex.

Frequent accidents when students wander off school premises because schools lack a boundary wall is not unheard of.

The teachers also believe in old-school teaching and do not move beyond the chalk and talk method.

A positive about rural education is that the community and parents are very involved in their child’s education.

An undergoing experiment that involves parents and teachers together in the learning loop of the child has been undertaken by us in several villages.

Awareness of quality education is leading to a mass migration as parents want to put their kids in a good urban private school.

Local to Global Education Model

For learning to take place, a safe school ambience is a must. This safety is not limited to just the school infrastructure but also related to the teaching-learning practices adopted by teachers to engage students. In ancient India, we had gurukuls with a family atmosphere of learning with gurumata (teacher mother) and gurubhrata (teacher brother). This model was adopted because it was believed that children will learn the most in a family system where they would feel safe. Now, with the commercialisation of education, it has become a systems process meaning change has to be broughton a much larger scale. Thus, with the educational model changing from local to global, safety and security has become all the more necessary but complex.

Globalised education today faces a large urban-rural divide in the quality of learning. Hailing from a small village Kurai in the tribal block in Seoni district of Madhya Pradesh, I have always been aware of the limited opportunities for quality education been available to the children. Rural areas are marred by geographical isolation, reduced accessibility of good schools and teachers, economic backwardness pushing the children towards unsafe labour jobs and other socio-cultural barriers. Even if a school is present, inadequate basic infrastructural facilities, regular absenteeism of teachers and frequent use of corporal punishment by the teachers make the teaching-learning environment hostile to the children.

In this article, I have shared my experiences of working at the grassroots and my efforts to bring a change bottom-up for I believe strengthening any system starts at the foundation.

Pain-Points of a Rural School

a) Inadequate Rural School Infrastructure

  • Schools in rural areas primarily Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand lack even minimal infrastructure. In themajority of villages, an abandoned house is changed to a school with no regards to the safety protocol and minimal guidelines for a school by RTE.
  • Frequently, a classroom space is shared by two classes with a single teacher shuffling between the two groups of students. These classes have no provision for support infrastructure like lighting and ventilation making the classroom environment unsuitable for children to learn.
  • Schools also lack facilities for safe drinking water and toilets. A common reason for early drop-outs of girl students as observed is lack of functional toilets in the school.
  • Frequent accidents when students wander off school premises because schools lack a boundary wall is not unheard of. Old dilapidated buildings with the danger of roof falling exist in a lot of government and low-income private schools.
  • In a community school, a case had been registered of a child casualty who on touching a high tension wire hanging low over the school roof had to get both his arms amputated. Even after this, it took authorities few months to respond and the only action taken was covering the wire with a thin plastic covering. What more is that the owner was actually a teacher who had bought the land because of its cheaper rate and even the gram panchayat had provided the sanction overlooking the school safety guidelines.

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Rural School Teachers

  • The teachers also believe in old-school teaching and do not move beyond the chalk and talk method. This leads to inattentiveness and finally children losing interest in the subjects.
  • A saying in the village, ‘Gurujimareydhama-dham to vidyaaayachamacham’ meaning the more teacher beats, the more student learns, prevails in these parts of India. Our organisationAgrini while working in these villages have often been requested by the parents to beat the children for it is seen as a mandatory requirement to acquire knowledge.
  • According to Right to Education Act, our teachers are also involved in census and election duties. The logic given is that Census in India takes place once a decade and election once in five years. However,multiple elections like LokSabha, VidhanSabha, gram panchayatetc along with updating voter’s card that makes place three out of five years regularly, the electionbecomes an all-round

Increasing Violence in Students

  • Violence in school and among students is a common occurrence. Common reasons found out were bad influence caused by mass media especially television.
  • Choosing and mimicking wrong role models including celebrities and abusive parents were frequently seen.
  • These children come from families where domestic violence is an everyday happening and for them, such violent behaviour gets normalised over time. Similarly, watching cartoons like ChotaBheem etc. leads to children believing physical strength and muscle power can solve all problems. So, they are quick to raise fists.

The way ahead

a) Using new and evolving Pedagogical Tools

  • A solution we are working towards is increasing access to quality content for the Children. We have realised kids today are visual learners so you cannot isolate them from the screen media, but, you can substitute the content with more age appropriate and useful matter.
  • So, we have started showing them youtube videos related to their coursework and giving them hands-on assignments like making working models for concepts learned.
  • We organise art competitions, quiz shows and cultural activities to engage students.
  • Student as teachers has also been used as a successful strategy where video recordings of poetry recitation, story-telling byexample students are showed to motivate others to perform better.
  • Making power point presentations and use of other audio-visual tools have also increased our classroom participation.
  • Regular teacher training workshops on imparting value system, sensitivity to no corporal punishment, basic experiential learning practiseson values, self, society and ideas like equality and non-violence are regularly undertaken

b) Participation by the Community

  • A positive about rural education is that the community and parents are very involved in their child’s education. For this, they also participate regularly in parents-teachers association and provide inputs on decisions regarding schools. In a case, an abusive village teacher absconded from the village when he found that parents and panchayathave got to know about his inappropriate behaviour.
  • Awareness of quality education is leading to a mass migration as parents want to put their kids in a good urban private school. The high fees of such institutions result in parents investing more than half of their income on education. This again raises an urgency of making quality education accessible to such communities for an inclusive development.
  • An undergoing experiment that involves parents and teachers together in the learning loop of the child has been undertaken by us in several villages. The idea behind is to raise empathy and accountability of each stakeholder to provide an optimal teaching-learning environment to the Children. This experiment if successful will pave way for making quality education accessible to a generation inhabiting less privileged areas.

About the Author

Mr. GouravJaiswal

GouravJaiswal graduated as an Electronics and Communications Engineer and was initially working as Network Engineer. During this time, he witnessed the lack of quality education in rural areas and a misconception prevailing in the society of quality education correlated with money. Being from a rural background himself he decided to work towards making education accessible and founded the NGO, Agrini. Agrini focuses on transforming rural government schools to provide equality in education for students inhabiting remote locations. Gourav has also been selected as “Young Connectors Of Future 2017” by Swedish Institute and has received multiple national and international fellowships like Learning and Leadership Journey, Wipro Education Seeding Fellowship, Dasra Social Impact program etc. Apart from being an entrepreneur, Gourav is also a speaker on education issues.

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