Bridging the rural education divide

Each time I visit India (specifically Rajasthan), I find so much more to learn. This trip had been interesting too. I visited villages and small towns to understand the education problem better. Clearly, we know what the problems are but without visiting and meeting the people, one would never get the full picture.

There was a particular school in a village, which was just two classrooms. There was a teacher and just one student in one of them. The teacher complained that the children don’t listen to her and ran away from the class. She also complained that the children come for the free meals and are not interested in studying. While talking to the teacher, I noticed that she looked completely disinterested.

After that, I was in a small town, where one of the district heads asked me to find a solution for the lack of teachers. 

“We have buildings and schools. They are not that big but they exist. Even in the space we have now, there aren’t enough teachers.”

When we speak of the rural education in India, we are addressing a completely different aspect of India’s education crisis. It made me think that there is such an incredible divide among India’s urban and rural people that it would not be an outrageous or discriminating idea to suggest a modified education system for the rural masses, that allows them to integrate into an urban system (at a later point) without much difficulty. 

Today, after reading Meeta Sengupta’s blogpost in Times Of India, I felt that instead of a few Twitter replies, I must blog about this.

We think of accessibility and availability of education as the areas that need to be addressed but from experience, after living in villages and small towns and visiting many schools, I realise that the fundamental issue that needs to be addressed is: how do we inspire our teachers and students?

It’s not about fancy buildings or many having facilities. We can learn while sitting under a tree! The extras (fancy rooms, basketball courts etc) come much later.

Mid-day meals was thought to be a great success in bringing children to school. However, in reality, the children in some cases, are not given breakfast because they will get food at school! Children come to school to eat and leave. On paper, there are great numbers that show improved attendance, but reality speaks a different story. There are also some who ‘steal’ the food to distribute among family members. I met a villager who said that instead of using government aid as just that–an aid, people were relying on the government to create solutions for everything. She said that the villagers were becoming very lazy and all this help was killing their ambition. How does one draw a line between help and abuse?

When I was in a girls school in Sikar, Rajasthan and I was addressing 2500+ girls, most of whom were first-generation school goers, I realised after talking to them that they were clueless about their education. The fact that they were studying in a school was of such importance that no one told them what to do with that education! They had no vision for themselves; no idea where this was taking them.

To me, this is the danger that we need to address. How can we take this discussion a step further and see that even with the basic school infrastructure and amenities, how can we inspire our people to teach and to be great teachers? While volunteering for short periods helps but it is not the solution for this problems.

We need a fresh mindset to address this problem. This is my quest with the 8-Day Academy: to teach/train inspiring teachers who will change the education experience for the students. How can this be addressed systematically via government support? I am not sure. But I don’t wait. I do what I can.


1 comment
  1. baa said:

    That’s another tough one. I recently watched another documentary about Feynman and saw how immensely he enjoyed it to learn new things and to try things out. For many of us it is just the way we tick .. but for others, anything without any direct benefit is uninteresting. And benefit these days means material benefit. Especially for people who have to think about survival and are overwhelmed by lots of problems in life. So, one way could be to make people see the material benefits and to hope that on the way they will see the mind-altering and broadening benefits of knowledge.

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