While the CM boasts that Goa is the richest state in India, the students in a high school in rural Cancona fear that the roof might collapse on their heads.
Sagar Bavdhan is a student at the Government High School in Gaundongrem village of Cancona block in South Goa. “The other day, I was coming to school as usual, and right before I entered, the roof fell off,” he tells Community Correspondent Devidas Gaonkar. The truth is, the school has been in a sorry state for a while. Ulhas Madival, the Chairman of the Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) says “There is no running water and the toilets are unusable. The building might fall apart at any moment. There are also very few teachers in the school.” The PTA has met with the Block Education Department and raised these serious issues with the officials. But as yet, no action has been taken.
The Directorate of Education makes tall claims and promises on its official website including putting an emphasis on vocational education and computer literacy. But the reality in Gaundongrem village is shocking. In a state with a literacy rate of 87.4%, well above the national average, the children from the 15 wards of Gaundongrem, with a population of 2000, 80% of whom belong to tribal communities, have only one school to go to. If this school collapses, the children will have to travel 12 kilometres to the nearest school. Jyotiba Mali, the Headmaster of the school had started filing paperwork three years back. “Every year minor repairs are done but the main wooden beams are damaged due to water leakage. We need more money to fix the entire building.”
Earlier this months the Director of Education, Gajanan Bhat, announced that primary schools with lesser number of students will be merged as there’s poor enrollment. But if this is the state of infrastructure, is it any wonder that enrollment in government school is falling? While the Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar in July assured the opposition in the assembly that enrollment rates are actually increasing, the reality for many students in rural Goa remains grim. In Gaondongrem, the children are forced to play with planks of wood, as there is only one proper cricket bat in the school.
As Keshav P Gaonkar, Chairman of the School Committee points out, if the children have to travel 12 kilometres to the next school, many might drop out. “We don’t want the school to close because it might be difficult to reopen it, once that happens,” he says. But in a building with no functional toilets, leaking roofs and an unsound structure, how long will the children’s lives continue to be endangered? The Chief Minister promised to increase the expenditure on education to 6% in the present budget from a 3.8% in the previous year. Maybe the government should spend the money on infrastructural development and allot sufficient teachers first, instead of introducing yoga classes and putting up photos of the Prime Minister and President.
To help the children of Gaundongrem study in a safe school with all necessary provisions call Shri Gajanan Bhat, Director of Education on +91 832 241 6023 and demand immediate release of funds to repair the building, ensure water supply and the allocation of sufficient numbers of teachers in the school.
Article by Madhura Chakraborty