Recently, Holiday Scout (https://theholidayscout.com), a Bomdila-based travel agency, took the wonderful initiative to repair the buildings of the government school in Jagarbasti village, in Chug valley. Volunteers from various places and the local community worked together in partially renovating and completely repainting the derelict school in a commendable showcase of social engagement and involvement. The results are amazing and will provide an atmosphere conducive to studying for the 50 odd students of the valley attending the school.
But somehow this great initiative also raised a few questions in my mind. Isn’t providing wholesome public (as in non-fee based, secular, local) education one of the core priorities of any government? Isn’t providing proper school buildings with furniture, a sufficient number of well-trained teachers and adequate lesson materials part and parcel of the education sector’s responsibility?
Apparently, there was no budget available for the maintenance of the Chug school building, which had resulted in its run-down state – which is why the volunteer involvement was so welcome.
A few years ago, however, a new school compound was constructed on the opposite bank of the river below Malekama village. This building stands empty until now. It seems there was budget to buy the land and build the school, but there was no budget for furniture, teachers and lesson materials. Moreover, there are hardly any children to fill the school. Children from Samtu, Lekuring, Duhum and Malekama villages continue to walk a few kilometres every day to attend the school in Jagarbasti.
Why was there budget to build a new school but no budget to repair the existing one? Isn’t that a misalignment of priorities?
Many Chug parents bend over backwards and are in constant tension to find funds to send their children to private (fee-based, religion-based) schools in Khamkhar (Rama Camp), Dirang, Bomdila, Itanagar, and beyond. They feel their children have better educational opportunities and chances for jobs outside the government school system. It is a vicious cycle: government schools are not well-maintained, are understaffed, and cannot provide adequate education. So, parents send their children to private schools elsewhere. When the numbers of students in government schools decrease, this would likely affect the available budget, resulting in even poorer maintenance, understaffing and, hence, worse education.
The question is how can public sector education be improved to make affordable education available to all children of Arunachal? How can spending in the public education sector be made more efficient and effective, so that the priorities are achieved? And with whom does that responsibility lie?