Mrunal Manmay Dash

With the dropout numbers touching as high as 13,000 in the ongoing matric examinations in Odisha, the School & Mass Education department attributed the reason to be free registration for the exams.

As per the School & Mass Education Minister, Samir Ranjan Dash, some students never intended to appear the exams. The number of examinees rose only because the government waived off the exam fee. Hadn’t the government done so, the dropout number would have been much lower, the minister said.

However, the ground reality did not seem much different. When OTV tried to probe into the alarming number of dropouts in the current exam, it found that the Minister was somewhat right. Those students never intended to appear for the exams. The major reasons can be attributed to lack of awareness, acute poverty, inadequate healthcare and migration - all of which, in a way, represent the State government's failure as well.

Kandhei Guru, a class-10 student of Ekamra Rasul High School in Cuttack’s Salipur never stepped into her classroom after standard-8. But she still has got an admit card for matric exams. When asked, Guru said, “Nobody informed me about the exams. How would I know?” she said.

Similarly, class-10 student of Malkangiri Nodal High School, Sipra Sarkar has also skipped the exams. And she is making beedis with her mother at home. Asked about the reason, Sarkar said, “My father has gone to Andhra Pradesh as migrant labourer. So, I have to make beedis at home to support my family. My poverty is not allowing me to skip beedi-making for exams.”

Asim Bala, a class-10 student of Sikpalli High School has a similar tale to tell. He is forced to work at a tent house as a labourer to support his family and a bed-ridden father.

Going over to western Odisha, Gayatri Banchhor and Gouri Nihal were set to appear for the matric exams this year. They had received admit cards too. But the need to satiate the hunger overpowered the need to study. Both the girls were forced to migrate to other states with their families to work as labourers prior to the exams.

While reports suggest that over 15,000 students have dropped out of the matric exams, the Mass Education Minister has admitted that 13,058 students have dropped out of the Matric exams this year.

Though the department does not have any answers, the Minister has said that the dropouts will be identified and discussions will be held with their guardians to make them appear for the supplementary exams.

The experts on the other hand have put the blame squarely on the department. Speaking to OTV, Academician Rajendra Prasad Rath said, “The administration should focus on their overall development and that is when they will get interested to come to the school.”

It is pertinent to mention here that the government has already conducted an exercise by sending teachers to the doors of every student and convince them to attend school after the Covid restrictions were lifted. Even after that, thousands of students are shying away from appearing the exams, which experts feel is a disconcerting trend.