Gujarat's Tribal Education Decried as "Rotten" by IAS Officer; Activists Rally in Support of the Assessment

At Bodgam primary school, students encountered difficulties with basic mathematical calculations and failed to identify common Gujarati words or locate important geographical landmarks on maps.
Children were found to be lacking basic literacy and numeracy skills.
Children were found to be lacking basic literacy and numeracy skills.Symbolic Pic- Vibes of India

Gujarat: In a startling revelation, Dhaval Patel, an IAS officer , has denounced the education system imparted in the rural parts of the state. Patel's scathing remarks termed the education system for tribal children as "rotten" and raised serious concerns about their future prospects.

Patel was among several IAS officers appointed to assess the overall state of education in government primary schools as part of the 'Shaala Praveshotsav' campaign. In his letter to Education Secretary Vinod Rao, Patel recounts his visit to some primary schools in Chhota Udepur district, where he witnessed the distressing condition of education for tribal children. His comments have sparked a heated debate, exposing the deep-rooted issues within Gujarat's education system.

“We are actually ensuring that the next generation of tribals continues to work as labourers and never progress in life. I wonder how a student cannot do simple addition or subtraction even after spending eight years with us?” Patel's statement, made in a letter on June 16, has brought to light the disturbing reality faced by tribal students in the state.

The officer's observations shed light on the shortcomings of the education system, which fails to equip these children with even basic literacy and numeracy skills. According to Patel, the prevailing education model guarantees a future filled with laborious jobs, devoid of any opportunities for advancement or personal growth.

Children in one of a primary school in rural Gujarat
Children in one of a primary school in rural GujaratWikipedia

Students unable to read, lack basic mathematical skills

The alarming state of affairs, as described by Patel, stems from his visit to primary schools in Timla, where he personally witnessed the struggles faced by tribal students. He noted with dismay that many students were unable to read even a single word and lacked fundamental mathematical skills after spending several years in the education system.

Further visits unveiled a host of deficiencies across multiple schools. At Bodgam Primary School, students encountered difficulties with basic mathematical calculations and failed to identify common Gujarati words or locate important geographical landmarks on maps.

Similarly, at Wadhawan Primary School, fifth-grade students struggled with simple subtraction problems and exhibited a limited grasp of English comprehension.

Patel's damning assessment has ignited a public outcry, with opposition parties, including the Congress party, questioning the effectiveness of Gujarat's entire education system. Manish Doshi, a spokesperson for the Congress party, highlighted the gravity of the situation, particularly for the underprivileged children residing in tribal areas like Chhota Udepur.

Education dept calls for comprehensive report

The state education department swiftly responded to Patel's concerns by seeking a comprehensive report on the matter from relevant authorities. Kuber Dindor, the State Education Minister, who also holds the tribal development portfolio, acknowledged the urgency of the situation. He expressed his concern and emphasized the need for immediate action to rectify the education crisis in remote tribal areas.

Dindor, hailing from the region himself, said, ' “I have asked officials of my department to give a detailed report so that we can make required changes. There are some issues in the remote tribal areas. I also belong to that region. There is lack of awareness even among the parents of students. We will try to make them aware and fill the gaps wherever required,” Dindor told reporters at an event in Godhra.

Alarming Conditions in Government Schools Exposed

Prominent activists, while preferring to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue, have echoed the concerns expressed by the IAS officer regarding Gujarat's education system. One head of a prominent non-governmental organization (NGO) acknowledged that the conditions of government schools in the state, particularly in rural areas, are abysmal. The prevalent issues include frequent teacher absenteeism, lack of punctuality, incomplete syllabi, and an overall decline in educational standards.

She highlighted the plight of teachers who fail to meet their responsibilities. Many teachers, particularly in rural areas, do not arrive on time or leave early, causing significant disruptions to students' learning schedules. This lack of commitment and dedication severely affects the quality of education being provided to students.

Moreover, the completion of courses becomes a major challenge, resulting in significant learning gaps. The situation is dire even for graduates from tribal areas, as they struggle to compose a correctly written application in any language.

Students appearing in an examination
Students appearing in an examination File pic- Indian Express

Child Rights Collective Group member claim 18 more 0fficers share similar concerns

Sukhdev Bhai Patel, an experienced social activist and member of the Child Rights Collective Group in Gujarat, shed further light on the state of the education system in the region. Patel said that it's not just Dhaval Patel, the IAS officer, who expressed concerns about the education model for tribal children, but 18 more officers allegedly have made similar assessments during their visits as part of the Shala Praveshotsav campaign.

In a conversation with The Mooknayak, Sukhdev Patel emphasized that despite the implementation of the Right to Education Act for the past 13 years, the provisions of the act are yet to be effectively put into practice. The Act declares education as a fundamental right for children, but its impact on the ground remains limited.

According to Sukhdev Patel, the lack of awareness and assertiveness among the direct stakeholders, primarily parents, plays a significant role in perpetuating the current situation. He stated that unless parents demand proper classrooms, improved infrastructure, and quality teaching in schools, the education system will continue to falter.

Sukhdev Bhai further highlighted the inefficiency of the School Management Committee (SMC) in most government schools. The SMC, which should consist of nine parent members, one teacher, and one educationist, and the school principal as the member secretary, is intended to advise on education-related matters. However, the activist revealed that in many schools, the SMC is non-functional, raising concerns about the lack of effective oversight and guidance in the education system.

Activists also point out shortage of teachers as another reason for the deteriorating state of education. The shortage of qualified and dedicated teachers has cast a long shadow over the education system in Gujarat. The consequences of this shortage are felt most acutely in rural and tribal areas, where children from marginalized backgrounds struggle to access quality education. Parents, at many places, have in the past resorted to lockouts and demonstrations to draw attention towards the issue.

Children were found to be lacking basic literacy and numeracy skills.
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