‘Education is the important instrument for inclusive growth and education serves as an engine for development of everyone’ - Union Minister of State for Education, Dr RR Singh reiterated this statement during a recent interaction programme held in Nagaland. The Department of Higher Education, Government of Nagaland had hosted the interaction of National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) and the State Competent Authorities and representatives of Minority Educational Institutions from Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura and Sikkim at Niathu Resort, Chümoukedima on June 3 last.
The Government of India, though the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act) mandates to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of 6 to 14 years as a Fundamental Right in such a manner as the State may, by law, determine. The Ministry of Education, GoI explains that RTE Act 2009, which represents the consequential legislation envisaged under Article 21-A, means that every child has a right to full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards.
Despite the affirmations and law, plagues in the state government run schools continue to be a huge concern all over the country. Here in Nagaland too, the disorders are strikingly evident in the form of lack or complete absences of basic infrastructure, inadequate trained teachers, limited or no access to quality education which again results in low pass percentage, overcrowded classrooms, single digit teachers covering multiple subjects so on and so forth.
Just in the last couple of days, several instances of grievances against poor infrastructure and development at government schools have been highlighted in this newspaper. The Noksen Students’ Union, Tuensang district came out with its findings following a ‘surprise visit’ to Government Primary School and Government High School, Noksen, and revealed that the union had detected numerous anomalies after interacting with the teaching staff, School Management Committee and students of the schools. Besides the poor foundation of the school building, for the last 10 years, the schools were functioning without Hindi subject teacher. The United Sangtam Students’ Conference, Kiphire district in April 2023 said the government schools under its jurisdiction are ‘struggling’ to provide quality education to students. They also detected the irregularities during its 1st phase educational tour and revealed shortage of teachers in almost all the schools, with 90% of the educational institutions running without Hindi, Science and Mathematics teachers.
More recent reports from the two districts shed more light on the reality of government run schools. Located in Kiphire district, the Government High School at Singrep village was first constructed in the year 1966. It took 57 long years for the school to get a new building, which was made possible under the Samagra Shiksha on June 6, 2023. Reports had come from Tuensang town on problem of admission in the two existing government higher secondary schools. With no response from the Government on the memorandum served to the Principal Director, Directorate of School Education, Nagaland seeking upgradation of a Government High School, the Chang Wedoshi Setshang (Chang Students’ Conference) had decided to halt the admission process for class 11 in the two existing government schools until a solution is arrived at.
Likewise, the other districts in Nagaland share the similar stories when it comes to issues of government run school.
The Commissioner & Secretary for School Education & SCERT, Nagaland during a workshop for post National Achievement Survey (NAS) 2011 and Foundational Learning Study (FLS) 2022, held last May in Kohima had stated that the large number of out-of-school children, high dropout rate and low retention rate are matters of concern in Nagaland. Similarly, the Advisor for School Education & SCERT, Nagaland has expressed concern over the low enrollment in government schools despite the provision of free education with highly qualified teachers. In the presence of representative from district administration, education department, and civil society organisations attending the consultative meeting of Meluri Sub-Division on June 3, 2023, the Advisor had announced that every village would have its primary school.
Despite introducing and implementing various strategies and policies, the challenge of enhancing quality education, especially in the government schools remain enormous. The involvement of community in the education system was seen as an effective approach, yet it did not solve the problem. The local communities, mostly the student unions are now shouldering the burden of bridging the gap by conducting surprise visits, educational tour and inspections but it sadly ends with submitting memorandums or representations. While all the grievances are genuine and needs to be treated, the government has to start with commitment to construct school buildings and guarantee sufficient teachers. Fixing the government school issues require a strong political will power and accountability from the stakeholders. Quality education is the most important decisive factor for the development and wellbeing of the state and with this perceptive, the government must have the competency and the determination to overhaul the system in the best interest of everyone.
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