Education is a right, not a privilege. However, the conditions of schools at Raishya Bari in Dhalai Tripura, tell a different story. Adivasi Awaaz creator John Debbarma, writes about the plight of government schools in Dhalai, which are accessed mostly by the indigenous/tribal students.
Dhalai is bordered by Bangladesh on the northern and southern sides. It is considered one of the most socio-economically backward districts of the state. It has a substantial tribal population. Educational institutions such as Dayaram Kami High school and Jer Kumar Para SB School, run by the Tripura government and the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC), respectively, are accessed, to a large extent, by the tribal/indigenous populations. Hence, the poor conditions of these schools deprive the socio-economically marginalized students, like tribal students, of accessing good education and thereby their access to varied opportunities for a good and healthy life decreases. Such scenarios force one to question if, in India, education is actually a right or merely a privilege, available only for the upper strata of society.
The major problems for the educational institutions at Raishya Bari include infrastructural challenges, lack of teachers and absence of drinking water. Dhalai is a seismic-prone area and as such there are requirements that need to be met in order to run a school. Nonetheless, with basic infrastructures like classrooms missing, it is difficult to ponder over other challenges. The absence of these facilities makes the schools a mere physical structure. I had the opportunity to visit some schools in the Raishya Bari area and learn about their challenges.
While interacting with the students and teachers at these schools I learnt that the lack of teachers is one of the major challenges that these schools face. I also learnt that in all these schools, apart from the unavailability of classrooms, there was a lack of furniture for students, lack of fans, lack of proper reading facilities like libraries, lack of clean drinking water and lack of proper toilets. One of these schools was Dayaram Kami High school. Established in 1993, it recently expanded to become a high school (in 2019). As stated earlier, it is run by the Tripura government. I was shocked to know that a school providing education till matriculation, had only 11 teaching staff and 1 non-teaching staff. Furthermore, it is the only high school in that area. While interviewing the teacher in-charge, I found out that the educational institutions in that area were running without headmasters. Out of the 11 teachers at Dayaram Kami High school, only 2 were well versed in the Kokborok language. It is important for teachers in government schools to know the regional/local languages, as most students attending these schools are indigenous. The medium of communication is the key to good communication which in turn is important in providing good education. Due to the lack of teachers, certain subjects like science were taught only once a month. It was appalling to know the condition of the only high school at Raishya Bari Dhalai and that the fate of the students is entirely up to these schools.
Another school in the area is Jer Kumar Para SB school, run by the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC), as stated earlier. It has classes upto the 8th standard. Here also, I learnt about the lack of classrooms. The teacher in-charge informed me that classes were usually taken jointly, due to the lack of rooms. For instance, classes for standard 1 and 2 were taken in the same room. Similarly, classes for standard 3 and 4 were taken in the same room, and so on. Moreover, the school has no boundaries and hence it is used as a dumping ground for domestic garbage.
I also visited Boal Khali High school, run by the Tripura government. Here also I found similar problems. There was no headmaster. There were only 7 teachers. Students informed me that only one or two subjects were taught per day. Lack of clean drinking water and toilet facilities were some other issues pointed out by the students.
Education is a tool for development, for personal growth and also for the growth of the society as a whole. Education is a necessity for all sections of the society, irrespective of their socio-economic status. The government has the responsibility of providing good, accessible education to all, especially to the marginalized sections, who cannot afford private schools and colleges. However, the irony is that it is the schools run by the government, where students from marginalized backgrounds come, that are in such poor conditions. In fact, the school run by TTAADC, is in such a terrible state. The indigenous/tribal population in this area remains deprived of basic education. How can we then discuss about an equal society? How can we strive towards peaceful living and healthy lives for all? It is only by imparting good education to all sections of the society, that it can develop. Only then can people lead a good, healthy and peaceful life.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.