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Right To Education At Crossroads
In Jharkhand

By Gladson Dungdung

03January, 2008

"Education is the movement from darkness to light."
-- Allan David.

Though the 'Right to education' became the fundamental right after the 86 th amendment of the Constitution of India in 2002 but the grassroots realities still remain the same. The right to education has been incorporated in the Article 21a of the Constitution, which clearly says that the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the ages of 6 to 14 years. The Central and the State government are implementing numerous education programmes in the state for ensuring the right to education of children at the grassroots. The 'Total Literacy Programme' is the most populous among them. At the same time, Mid-day Meal scheme was also introduced to ensure the presence of children in the schools.

But unfortunately the situation in many schools in Jharkhand has been the other way. Authorities have been forced to discontinue the mid-day meal scheme after children refused to consume food cooked by Dalit women. In September 2007, students of a government middle school at Putki, 15 km from Dhanbad district headquarter, refused to eat food cooked by a women belonging to the Bawri (Dalit) Caste. Though the authorities tried to persuade the parents but they protested against it and the scheme was suspended for three months. It was restarted only after a 'higher caste' cook was appointed. The authorities threatened the parents that they would prosecute them under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989 but it went on vain and the schemes remains suspended in many schools in the district.

The slogan of the total literacy programme "Adhi Roti Khayenge, Phir Bhi School Jayenge" (we shall go to school even with the half stomach) remains painted only on the walls. The government of India had sanctioned crores of money to the state government but the result is quite disappointing. The Total Literacy programme has no meaning to more than 4 lakhs children who are still engaged as child labourers in the state. They have no ideas about their right to education and mid day meal as well.

The Census Report 2001 shockingly mentions about the denial of right to education to the rural masses. The report says that 348 villages among 32,620 villages of Jharkhand are still waiting for a literate person to come. 1291 villages have only 10 percent literate people and not even a single woman is literate in 1433 villages. 4573 villages have merely 10 percent literate women. 382 villages are waiting for a literate man and 665 villages have only 10 percent literate men. In total, the state has 53.6 percent literacy including 67.3 percent male and 38.9 percent female.

The right to education also must be checked between urban and rural population. Comparison of education between rural and urban masses, it shows that the urban people are more privileged. The only 45.7 percent people of rural areas are literate meanwhile 79.1 percent literate people are from urban areas. Among them 60.9 percent men are literate in rural areas and 87.0 percent in urban areas. On the other hand, 29.9 percent women are literate in rural areas and 70 percent literate women are in the urban areas.

The status of education also can be analyzed by district wise. The East Singhbhum district occupy the top position with 68.8 percent literacy and Pakur district falls on the bottom with merely 30.6 percent literate people. The education was completely dominated by men in Dhanbad district with 79.5 percent but Pakur district disappoints them as they come with merely 40.2 percent literacy. Women came in the top in East Singhbhum with 57.3 percent but they lost in Pakur district as they have merely 20.6 percent literacy.

The most marginalized communities of the state - tribal and Dalit are at the bottom of the education ladder. The tribal community has merely 33 percent literacy including 48.76 percent male and 22.11 percent female literacy while only 29.90 percent people from Dalit community are literate with 41.28 percent male and 17.85 percent female literacy. On the other hand, the NGOs have also received crores of rupees for providing education to tribal and Dalit children but the outcome is not visible. Therefore there is a thrust need of the honest and strong efforts to be taken up for improving the status of education in the state.

In the era of the information technology, one can not even imagine of development without the quality education. But we have not even achieved the graph of cent percent literacy even after 60 year of Independence of India. On the other hand, the practices of untouchability in schools are going on, which is a big obstacle and a great shame for us. When would the state become accountable for these entire grimy situations? The social justice can not be delivered to the marginalized people without education and awareness; this is why the decision makers enjoy the privileges after knowing these drawbacks of the poor. The poor and marginalized people will not be given their rights and privileges unless and until they insist for it.

© 2007

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