Bhubaneswar: Going by the promise it holds, the launch of Adarsh Vidyalayas (Model Schools) by Chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Tuesday could arguably be termed a watershed movement in mass education in Odisha. The model school concept might be a step in the right path but a closer look reveals that the path is potholed with a host of challenges.
A look at the state of affairs of primary education in the state would put things in perspective. No amount of media limelight for the launch of Model schools could camouflage the fact that the primary education infrastructure is in dire straits. While some schools don’t have classrooms, others lack teachers. Some schools have gaping holes in the asbestos roof. The less said about toilet facilities the better.
Take for example the primary school at Pujaripara in Nabarangpur. A broken roof, lack of classrooms and students studying in the school verandah conjure up a typical picture of what passes off for a school in the far flung areas of the State.
Another such example is the Phubanisahi Upper Primary school in Phulbani, the headquarters of Kandhamal district. Out of the 11 classrooms, four are in a completely dilapidated state. The rest are only marginally better. The depressing narrative of the school also has an element of irony too: computer is available for students, but there is no electricity.
The first images of a model school launched on Tuesday at Patharapecha in Bolangir district drew a picture which, as said earlier, holds a lot of promise. Spanking new concrete buildings, tiled floors, modern desks, neatly laid out classrooms, among other tings, show how the schools ought to be. While the 'hardware' is in place, the important question is: will the 'software' match it? Will the quality of education in these schools be significantly better than that of an average Odia medium government school?
“This model school program is just a gimmick ahead of the Panchayat elections and the 2019 general elections,” feels Odisha Congress leader Jaydev Jena.
“These schools will cater to people who are relatively well off economically, while the downtrodden will have no option but to send their wards to Odia schools expecting no results. This will eventually make the Odia schools an object of further neglect. The vernacular medium will become a totally neglected sector,” said Odisha BJP general secretary Prithwiraj Harichandan.
The major hindrance to quality education in Odisha is the lack of teachers. Many schools still lack the basic infrastructure like drinking water facility, toilets and playground. Teaching is also affected by frequent protests by teachers over various demands which are not fulfilled.
Meanwhile, the School and Mass Education minister said the government is trying to ensure infrastructure development in all schools. “We are mulling various options to ensure simultaneous development of all schools including block-grant schools,” said School and Mass Education minister Debi Prasad Mishra.
The Models schools, whose medium of teaching will be English, will have classes from VI to XII. This also brings one to the most important question as to how far the students coming from an Odia medium will be able to adapt. Given the state of primary education in the state, it certainly seems a tall order.