Lack of teachers is a growing issue in the rural education sector
By Ileena Dutta
On the way to the local Government school, there was a mud house with thatched roof and bare concrete walls. It was a summer afternoon and a young girl came out of the small kitchen that the family carved out of the only room that they had exhausted. A black eyed girl, dejected and worn out, with shabby clothes and no ‘chappal’, probably belongs to a very impoverished family.
Jyoti Nayak, a 14 year old, with that spark in her eyes to reign supreme in life, studies at Upgrade Government Higher Primary school in standard eighth at Bail Marched village located in Manvi taluk, Raichur district. Her academic performance was above average inspite of such obstacles that she comes across in life. A close knit family, where her father passed away when she was just eight and her elder brother left the family to some faraway place to pursue his farming occupation to sustain his life not with just a meagre amount that he was previously being paid at his village.
Her mother Anita Devi is forty two years old and she is already not doing well in her life. The daily household chores that she has to perform because her mother is sick and bed ridden with severe ailment like thalassemia and her heart is in a bad stage, compels her to miss her school quite often. Jyoti’s dedication for the family was intense. “I care for my family a lot and situations have made me stronger and capable of doing everything. I want to become a doctor one day”, said Jyoti with a glowing smile on her unimpeachable face.
Dim light, roof covered with hay and straw, mud wall stuck with gobar for preparing food and a single room is where Jyoti and her mother reside since fifteen years. The small knit family has seen days of distress after their only daughter was born. The financial flow of the family came to a halt after her father’s death. As their child was growing, she showed keen interest in observing nature and humming gibberish words when she used to be alone. “I wondered that she had become of the age to go to prathamika sale (primary school) and learn Kannada and educate her unlike me who studied till standard five and was forcefully married off”, laments Anita Devi with tearful eyes as she struggled to get off the camp bed. Jyoti loved to play Kho-Kho other than being academic. She won a few low taluka level school competitions and that shows her interest in the game.
The only nearby school in her locality where she was studying didn’t have appropriate amount of teachers to pay attention to each of the child’s growth and development. “We don’t have a sports teacher at all in our school. All our subjects are most of the time taught by one teacher,” Jyoti added.
Manvi taluk, located in Raichur district of Karnataka state in India is located 51 KM west from District head quarters Raichur and 404 KM north of the State capital Bangalore. Amidst the prevailing issues of water crisis, sanitation and road facility, the taluk is lagging behind in providing enriching education to the children. Manvi taluk, located in Raichur district of Karnataka state in India is located 51 KM west from District head quarters Raichur and 404 KM. The Government schools in Manvi Taluk lack sufficient number of teachers for a class strength of almost 300 children. According to government norms, every 30 students should have a teacher to guide them, at the primary level. Whereas in the upper primary level, the number goes up slightly; every 35 students in a class should be taught be one teacher. Lack of sufficient number of teachers, proper infrastructure for carrying out physical activities and sports is affecting the overall academic development of the kids.
Education is a basic need for sustaining a healthy life for every human being. It is a method to acquire knowledge and skills that will be useful for lifetime. It helps to create vision and awareness about the surroundings and developments in the society. Life becomes easier for a person who seeks quality education right from childhood. Right to Education secures the need to get educated; at least seek basic education to lead one’s livelihood. In order to facilitate quality education in urban as well as rural regions of India, there needs to be enough number of mentors who can take the responsibility to bring up the academic abilities of the children. Another important stage would be to keep the children interested and enrolled in the programmes to achieve the goal of quality education in India.
Rural India has a consistent problem since years where the primary and most of the high schools lack the number of teachers to teach as compared to the enormous number of admitted students. Most of the students are poverty stricken; they either drop out or rarely come to school to get properly educated. The village of Bail Marched has only four permanent teachers posted at its Government primary school that has strength of 246 students till 8th standard with four permanent teachers. The three other assigned guest lecturers are mere substitutes to the permanent ones. The problem begins where classes are conducted for students of standard one, two and three all together in a classroom by a single teacher.
It is likely to be a problem because all the students won’t receive the same amount of attention from the teacher and would lag behind resulting in apathy towards the subject or going to school. Afterall they are children from the less privileged section of the society and don’t really understand the value of education in life yet. Now what matters is how much each child is benefitting from going to the school and learning with love and care. “I have financial issues at home; my father is a farmer and facing huge debts in market and not able to go to school regularly. I requested the head mistress to assist me study at home, but there were not enough teachers that she can appoint me a tutor at home”, Raju, 12, said weeping.”. As a helping hand to his father, he also works in the field during the day. His family doesn’t support his education and often asks him to leave school and join in the field’s full time.
The Government rule mentions that the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 in its Schedule lays down Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR) for both primary and upper primary schools. As per the Government rule, primary schools in rural areas are bound to pass a student if he is present for the classes no matter how much he/she scores. Probably this degrades the education quality that inculcates among the children. The student teacher ratio that needs to be 30:1 has escalated upto 80:1 or 90:1 affecting the education quality provided to each and every child. “It is difficult to manage eighty students alone teaching them atleast three subjects. Most of the surrounding schools have similar problem where a single teacher needs to teach minimum of eighty to ninety students,” said Parveen Banu, school teacher.
If we take a look at most of the rural Karnataka schools in faraway taluks and villages, it is disheartening to find that the scenario is absolutely different. On an average, every primary school has a teacher student ratio of 1:90 that is greatly affecting the quality of education required for each and every child at school. The situation is same in Manvi taluk as well. “Most of the schools in rural areas have teachers appointed by the Government. They have guest lecturers’ more than permanent teachers who are also poorly waged than the full time Trained Graduate Teacher. This leads to lack of interest in teacher and they eventually move away to some other better paid profession leaving the seat vacant at least for few months,” said Susanta Das, Educationist and E-learning specialist.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The UNDP website states, Since 2000, there has been enormous progress in achieving the target of universal primary education. The total enrolment rate in developing regions reached 91 percent in 2015, and the worldwide number of children out of school has dropped by almost half. There has also been a dramatic increase in literacy rates, and many more girls are in school than ever before. These are all remarkable successes. Progress has also been tough in some developing regions due to high levels of poverty, armed conflicts and other emergencies. The website of UNICEF states that currently in South Asia, one in three children who reach Grade 4 are able to read basic texts. Millions of children, who have completed primary education, have not mastered the foundational skills of basic numeracy and literacy.
The website also mentions that quality education, which is essential to real learning and human development, is influenced by factors both inside and outside the classroom, from the availability of proper supplies to the nature of a child’s home environment. Improvements in the quality of teaching can reduce dropout rates and ensure better retention and transitions from early childhood learning into primary and secondary education. Also South Asia faces significant challenges in providing quality education to all its children. It lacks adequate finances, qualified teachers, pedagogical knowledge, and opportunities for adolescent education and skill utilization. In many parts of the region, learning methods are largely teacher-centred and rote-based, and children are subjected to corporal punishment and discrimination.
The complication still lies in the appointment of required number of teachers to fulfill the ratio requirements and also to ease the students’ lives.
Raju, 12, likes to read and write Kannada and he dreams to become a Kannada writer in near future. He is in standard 6th and the classes are conducted for ninety-five students together teaching Kannada by a teacher. “It is difficult for me to understand what sir/madam is teaching at times because 95 students in a small classroom make so much noise that it disrupts attention and dedication.” He added. They face difficulties that greatly affect their academics and their willingness to seek full education.
Students flunk or get low grades, parents compel them to drop out and get started with cultivation work or local chai shop. Girls in rural areas have yet a different story to narrate. A few have miserable lives struggling to educate themselves and escape their native village. Throughout India, the situation for Activity based Learning (ABL), teacher performance and sustainability is also different. A report by the UNICEF studied the Child friendly ABL conditions in India. Only 27per cent of classrooms in the study had a child-friendly, learning centred environment and around 11 per cent of classrooms were implementing ABL as intended in the initial state models. Changes in ABL Design and Quality of Implementation have resulted in low adoption of ABL. When changes are frequent, this leads to confusion among teachers and affects their practice. One example of this is the number of changes made in Tamil Nadu over the last few years- including the changes to the cards and the introduction of textbooks. Another example is the shift to textbooks in Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, which restrict the possibilities for self-paced learning and activity-based grouping to aid teacher classroom management, which were possible in their initial models. The failure of ABL programmes is also associated with lower quality of implementation (adequate training & support, material supply timelines etc.). This is particularly true for the states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Nalli Kalli is a friendly way of teaching children popular in the Indian state of Karnataka. According to the Government website of school education, The Nali-Kali method of classroom transaction not only gives a greater autonomy to the teacher but also creates the right atmosphere for the child to learn in a friendly and joyful way. Learning takes place systematically in groups organized according to age wise competencies in an interactive manner. When children master the competency of one group, they move on to another group to learn the next competency. The teaching takes place through songs, games, surveys, story telling, use of educational toys and improvised teaching-learning materials, all made by the teachers themselves .
According to the website of the Planning Commission, there is some conflict between the DPEP (District primary education programme) activity-based Minimum Levels of Learning and the Nali-Kali approach wherein competencies are pegged to the learning ladder. Some of the DPEP teachers who have also had Nali-Kali training have combined both sets of say language learning activities, whereas the Nali-Kali teachers whose blocks have come under DPEP use the activities from the bank as additional activities as and where they fit into the learning ladder. The TLM (Teaching/learning materials) could be replicated without the spirit of owning the TLM in which case it could well become another mechanical approach to learning. It definitely requires not only institutional support, but also the conviction of the teacher to infuse a spirit of joy into the learning process. Another challenge would be to develop the teaching learning material for alternative schools with changed strategies and in various state languages where such a teachers’ movement can be forged.
“The Government needs to appoint more teachers in the rural areas in order to increase the ratio distribution between the teacher and the students. The appointment of guest lecturers doesn’t solve the problem. They come only when the permanent teachers are absent. Things are even worst in the schools those are in faraway locality and not near main roads. There the ration gap increases,” informs Vaali Babu, the Block Education Officer at Manvi taluk.
Other problems that matter
Raja Sab, 13, is a student of 8th standard at Government Primary School, Sunkeshwara, yet another village that is 30 kilometers away from Manvi town. The village has a view of hills made with boulders, is badly maintained with garbage littering all around the villages, stinking with rotten food items and sanitation waste. Among all these, there lies a one-storied concrete rented house where Raja stays with his mother and father. The house looked so old and scruffy that it seemed to be built ages back. I met Raja at his school and he took me to his house where I met his proud mother, Sobha.
She went on to tell stories of how her son is performing well in sports in spite of not having sports teacher at his school and no proper guidance and required infrastructure. “Raju has won second prize in Kho-Kho at Taluk level sports function and it amazes me every time about his dedication and liking towards sports. It would have been so better if there was at least one designated sports teacher at his school to guide him properly”. He is the head of the school community and his grades are quite good though teachers seem to be less in his school. The head mistress Shanta Devi said, “Though we have issues in the number of teachers but our students do pretty well. Raja is our head boy and he is an amazing sportsperson. He encourages other students to take part in taluk and district level sports competition whenever they come to take names of those interested. He is an asset for our school”.
The unavailability of any sports teacher and proper curriculum is affecting the overall growth and development of the students. Students who have interest in being a sportsperson are not receiving proper training and that makes them lag behind. Since the children in rural schools and villages are downtrodden, they don’t have money to get admitted to specialized schools for sports training. Also sports play a vital role as extracurricular activity in a student’s life. “Attention should be paid to the physical growth and mental development of the kids to further excel in life,” said Shoba S, a teacher at Government Primary School, Manvi. So the question is why there is no sports teacher in the primary schools in villages? “My mentor at the Taluk level competition told me that I have the potential to perform better if I was well trained by a specialized sports teacher right from early days at school”, said Raja Sab, 13.
Teachers face problem
The Kannada medium Government school at Neermanvi, a village that is 15 kilometers away from Manvi town but is near the main road. Things there are a bit different but there is also the problem of lack of sufficient teachers that is prevailing for the rest of the taluk. Shukumar Adiveppa, 13, is a class 7 student at the school and has a knack for writing poetry in Kannada. Though there is no specialized teacher in literature or poetry, it was delightful to watch him recite poetry. “Shukumar has been selected for Karnataka Sahitya Parishat for his outstanding poetry skills and literature. It is a proud moment for us and we love him”, said Ms. Ambamma Pratap Singh, a primary school teacher.
He was so friendly and told about his dream of becoming a Kannada poet when he grows up. Sometimes, it feels like one doesn’t need any teacher or mentor if he has the talent. But all students are not so blessed. They can be polished to turn out to be precious gems. Teachers are the support system for children who can hold their hand and step up the ladder of success. The Kannada Primary Government School at Neermanvi has a total strength of 265 students with only 5 permanent teachers. The teachers don’t get preferred location of transfer and they are often disappointed.
The lack of teachers makes them work as clerks or attendants; they have to do all the official work starting from filling up forms to check listing vacant seats of teachers, feed students, take their of their overall development at school. “We work under pressure as we have to perform all the official works, teach the kids minimum of three subjects and also look after their wellbeing. It becomes very difficult on a daily basis. A few women teachers face difficulty in getting transferred to the village where their husbands are posted leading them to give up their job eventually. We can’t live independently this way”, said Parveen Banu, Kannada teacher at a village school.
In rural areas, very few are educated enough to crack the CTET/TET examinations that is mandatory to serve as primary teachers at Government schools. “If there has to be plenty of teachers in rural villages, the locals who are educated need to appear for TET in order to become school teachers. But the examination is so difficult for them to level up and get through, they give up and move to other villages or Bengaluru to do some other petty work to keep up to their living”, said the BEO Vaali Babu.
According to a report by live mint, the education of girls and boys in rural India is improving with time. Girls have closed the gap with boys in rural areas: at age 14, 94% of girls and 95% of boys are enrolled in school; by age 18, 68% of girls and 72% of boys are still in school, a wholesale improvement on the proportions of a generation earlier.
It is important to increase the student-teacher ratio in villages where students are now willing to go to school, avail the mid day meals and educate themselves. A World Bank report says, The low quality is caused by ‘systemic’ and not ‘managerial’ failures; and thus requires an institutional solution- The Education Officer of Manvi Taluk points out the fact that there is a low recruitment of teachers in the taluk government schools and the guest teachers, who are instead appointed, don’t attend the schools to teach. There are hardly three to four subjects taught without any proper infrastructure. There is no sports teacher or equipment to mould a child’s wellbeing and health.
Whatever schemes comes up, the significant step to be taken is to appoint more teachers in rural areas to see overall and equally balanced development in literacy and educational sector among the urban and rural. The candidates need to be promised more incentives if they agree to migrate to rural area to educate the children of the poor and the needy.