Baghmara: In another shocker from the Garo Hills education stable, at least 16 government Lower Primary (LP) schools have been without any teacher since the termination of contractual teachers in the district of South Garo Hills, while at least 118 teaching vacancies exist in the district.
According to education department sources from the district, over 1000 students from these government LP schools have been without an education since 2019. If one adds other government-aided, ad-hoc, deficit schools in the mix, the numbers will be staggering, as per officials.
The state of education in at least 2 districts of Garo Hills has been in a permanent mess since the past few years. This has been exacerbated with the termination of contracts of teachers since 2019. With the government still at odds on how to work out the system itself, things look extremely bleak for the education situation in this part of Meghalaya.
“The termination of teachers’ contracts has led to many vacancies. At least 16 schools are without teachers and we are hopeful that the court-directed roster system will be worked out soon to resolve the issue,” informed a highly-placed source from the education department in SGH.
Notwithstanding the number of schools without teachers, the source informed that regular updates have been sent to the education department seeking repair of schools with flailing infrastructure, some for over a decade. However the tepid response to the appeals has made many of these schools stop complaining and continue running as they are.
“There is this thought amongst school circles that nothing will be done for education in SGH as no one seems to want to take it up. Many have stopped complaining and making do with whatever infrastructure they have left. Some like the Mindikgre Government UP School have resorted to using tarpaulins to cover the open roofs. That is how important education has become to the state,” said social activist from SGH, Greneth Sangma.
The recently-concluded Assembly session had thrown up numbers on the climate of education in the state, with Garo Hills easily being the focus point for lower primary education. While the education minister listed out 36 schools in the state without a single teacher, the number seemed more primed to hide than to reveal.
Amongst the 36 named, at least one school where there has been no teacher since the past 3 years, Koknal Imong under Songsak in East Garo Hills (EGH) was not mentioned. Another school in Nabokgre under Samanda Block has been without a teacher since the past 2 years, as has been the Gabil Bisa LP School. If you add the two schools named by Salmanpara AITC MLA, Winnerson Sangma, in his constituency under SWGH, the numbers just don’t add up.
Further, another school which also has not had a teacher since the beginning of this year, Sokadam Balading missed mention amongst schools in EGH.
If you add the village of Jalwagre Songgital in EGH and Mongmabel in SGH to the mix where the appointed teachers have not been attending school since the past 3 years, the situation appears worse.
The assertion by education minister, Lahkmen Rymbui that nearby alternative schools were present to cater to the needs of the children is something so far removed from the present situation, that Mars will feel closer to all those children than an education. All of this is due to the lethargic department officials that feel more at ease in offices than in the field.
In at least 4 schools where no teachers have been appointed, which were visited upon, the nearest school was more than 3-5 kms one way making the task of attending these ‘alternative schools’ out of the question. As to who provided these numbers to the minister, is anyone’s guess but there are better ways to hide failure than to whitewash facts.
The Right to Education is a basic right that guarantees free and compulsory education to children across the country. However, this right in the state of Meghalaya is being deprived to thousands of children, mostly from the Garo Hills region.
“For how long will they continue to deprive our children from the right to an education? This makes absolutely no sense that a government that wanted to prioritise education has been doing just the opposite. They seem more inclined to work on school building projects than actually providing an education,” said social activist Maxbirth G Momin. For all those without proper infrastructure, the wait will continue as the development of these schools is completely skewed, Momin added.
“Before any decision is taken by the government, the pros and cons need to be weighed. With this present government, it seems the mantra is to hit first and think later. What their action has done is left thousands without an education in Garo Hills and many parts of the state. This scenario cannot be how you prioritise education,” said Momin.
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