Education as the way to change in Chhattisgarh

The prestigious Sakshar Bharat Rashtriya Puraskar awarded to Surguja district recently for outstanding performance in spreading education again underlines a paradox in Chhattisgarh. Selective excellence coincides with mass failures. In the same district pass percentage of Class X exam this year was just 40 per cent. If the state boasted of over 150 students cracking AIEEE this year after they were brought from their villages and given special coaching at Raipur, mathematics saw the worst result in Class X. Except Durg and Bijapur, all other districts saw only 30 per cent pass the math exam. In Rajnandgaon alone, while 38 students cracked AIEEE, only 30.44 per cent could clear Class X math.

Dantewada's case is more curious. The state's first Education City, a Rs 100-crore project, and livelihood college, both brainchild of Collector O P Chaudhary, have come up in the district that has seen maximum Naxal violence in the past decade. Over 2,000 youths, mostly tribals, have been given training in various vocations over six months and placed in good jobs across the country. Besides, there are now institutes for school dropouts and also to provide PMT-engineering coaching. However, in this district too, the pass percentage in Class X math was 40. This when a student who fails just two subjects is allowed to appear for a complementary exam. The reason for this dichotomy is that these centres are fruits of individual efforts and islands of exception, located along mosly national highways or district/block headquarters. In much of Chhattisgarh, there is no educational infrastructure over vast areas. Primary and secondary schools in a majority of the Bastar villages have been lying damaged for years. Where they exist, teachers play truant.

The government's claim that Maoists don't let them construct schools is refuted by police records of the total 114 schools destroyed by Maoists since 2000, a figure far smaller than usually suggested, 75 were damaged in the three peak years of Salwa Judum (2006-08). In 2011 only one school was damaged and this year there has been no such incident. Teachers confirm Maoists do not harm them and the rebels too, over the last few years, have expressed the desire to have more schools.

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