Lack of resources leaves students in MP tribal village without access to education: The Tribune India
Neemuch, March 28
A single upper primary school with classes up to grade 8 was the only ray of hope for the 136 pupils in Dhakadkhedi, a tribal-dominated village under Manasa tehsil of Neemuch district in Madhya Pradesh.
However, these 63 girls and 73 boys were left without access to education during the pandemic, when schools were closed and online classes became the new normal.
The village, with a population of 784, is home to 160 families. Manasa, the nearest town and also the seat of the tehsil, is 42 km away. A pucca road connects Dhakadkhedi to Manasa via the village of Kanjarda. Agriculture is the mainstay here and the majority of the inhabitants are farm laborers who survive on a meager daily wage of Rs 150.
Besides the Upper Primary School, a student hostel run by the Tribal Welfare Department supported the education of 26 children from nearby villages.
“While parents are afraid to enroll their young children in hostels, they do so hoping that they will have a better future,” said Prahlada Solanki, a primary school teacher in Dhakadkhedi.
Ineffective Education Models
The Madhya Pradesh government has proposed three education models to bridge the digital divide for tribal children – DigiLEP, Doordarshan and mohalla classrooms. However, none of these proved particularly effective for Dhakadkhedi.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had launched DigiLEP in April 2020 as a “Learning Enhancement Program” which aimed to promote online education in the state. At the time, it seemed certain that this app would be a one-of-a-kind platform that would connect groups of teachers and students from class 1 to 8 through WhatsApp groups, allowing them to share videos based on manuals.
“DigiLEP – Aapki Studies, Aapke Ghar is an application designed for this purpose,” Chauhan had said, although it remained inaccessible to tribal students of Dhakadkhedi, and the insubstantial economic state of the inhabitants called into question the effectiveness of this model of online education.
Of the 63 girls studying at Dhakadkhedi Public School, only five have an Android phone available at home – the minimum required to access DigiLEP. The few people who had access to smartphones could ill afford to spend on regular top-ups for internet use.
The problem was compounded by the lack of consistent mobile connectivity in Dhakadkhedi and the half-dozen neighboring villages, with the nearest base transceiver station, or cell tower, in Kanjarda. You had to head for the heights of the village in the hope of catching a network, and even then it was barely enough to make a phone call.
Solanki explained, “DigiLEP couldn’t be effective here because people didn’t have Android phones, and even mobile networks remained patchy. We had tried to give better education to students, especially girls, and reported these local concerns to the district education authorities.” As a second model of education, the State Department of School Education had announced that it would broadcast classroom lessons through Doordarshan and All India Radio. This medium has also failed in Dhakadkhedi due to the lack of televisions and radios in the majority of households here.
PS Goyal, coordinator of the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan district project, a government initiative to provide equitable education, said he informed authorities of the various problems in these villages that teachers had reported.
“The district education setup, meanwhile, was banking on Mohalla classes to fill that void,” he added. “The dedication shown by the teachers, even in such difficult circumstances, to teach the children and ensure that they were not deprived of an education was well worth appreciating.”
These mohalla classes were the third model proposed by the state government. These looked the most promising for rural Madhya Pradesh. Under this approach, teachers had to “take lessons” for school children in two different chaupals, or village gathering places, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day. Contrary to expectations, only five to six students on average attended these mohalla lessons in this remote village.
During these sessions, all the children, regardless of the class in which they studied, had to sit together. They would have to wait their turn as the designated teacher would take care of each student individually. Given the irregular schedules and disconnected learning techniques, parents were not enthusiastic about sending their children to these sessions, nor were the students enthusiastic about this mode of learning.
The lack of lunch, sports and other regular school activities further discouraged parents and their wards from relying on this government initiative.
The powerlessness resulting from such a lack of resources is evident in parents and children. Nandlal Tawad, one such parent from Dhakadkhedi, said he could not afford to buy a smartphone for his children due to his low income. As a result, they have remained disconnected from their classes during the pandemic. This, and the lack of mobile connectivity, have stood in the way of her dream of seeing her children benefit from a quality education.
Adding to the problem was that female wards continued to play second fiddle to boys when it came to attending mohalla lessons. Solanki acknowledged that in Dhakadkhedi “only a few students had benefited from mohalla lessons, that too mostly boys, and that girls’ attendance remained relatively low”.
According to a policy brief from the right to education forum, up to 10 million girls were at risk of dropping out of secondary school for pandemic-induced reasons, such as a downward spiral in family incomes and unemployment. digital inaccessibility. Moreover, even before the pandemic, Madhya Pradesh ranked among the top three states where more than 8% of girls remained ‘out of school’ (dropping out as well as those who never attended school), according to the annual report. on the state of education (ASER) 2016.
The need for unaffordable smart devices and fluctuating network connectivity had added to this variety of barriers to education in Dhakadkhedi. The neighboring villages of Danthalai, Khedabaraji, Kundalia Khurd, Kundaliya Buzurg, Makodi Modi, Gothra and Nayagaon did not do better either.
Traditional gender norms tend to push girls who drop out of school into household chores and eventually into marriage. ASER suggests that the main reason girls drop out of school is family constraints, and re-enrolling these girls remains a struggle.
Dinesh Padaypati, a social worker in Manasa, explained: “We wanted these girls to study. In addition to ensuring an adequate mobile network, the government should have provided Android mobile phones to girls in these areas, so that they could continue their studies. “There is also a concerted effort to educate the rural population about the dangers of child marriage, which occurs mainly due to lack of education,” he added. children continue to take place and ruin any chance for a girl to continue her education.” IANS