Tribal schools run by the government in the State don’t have a monitoring mechanism in place, activists and tribal education workers said on Friday. They also alleged that corruption, mismanagement and a crumbling infrastructure are adding to the worsening situation.
The State government is battling allegations of apathy in the management of tribal schools run or aided by it, following reports of the alleged rape of a minor girl at an ashram school in Buldhana district.
Milind Thatte from Vayam, an NGO working among the tribal population, said presence of a female warden in ashram schools is mandatory but most such schools don’t adhere to this norm. Singling out infrastructure as one of the main reasons behind the sorry state of affairs, he said ashram schools have more students than they can accommodate, especially in Class VIII and above, and few teachers.
“These schools serve the worst possible food. We have examples in Palghar district, where schools open based on availability of water,” Mr. Thatte said. To add to the infrastructural mess, he said, tribal students are having to compromise on the one thing they joined school for: quality of education. “There is no system to monitor quality of education.”
According to researcher Rajshri Tikhe, there is no communication between the Tribal Welfare Department, which runs ashram schools, and the Education Department. She said, “All ashram school are run by the TWD and by people not from an educational background. What type of monitoring can be expected? Does TWD provide necessary training to the teaching staff? Have they thought of setting up a different model of the School Management Committee (SMC) for these schools?”
Allow scrutiny: activists
Child rights activists have sought better monitoring of ashram schools. “All ashram schools should be surveyed. Not just girls, boys too should be asked about their experience at the school, including about infrastructure, staff and the food they are served,” said Anuradha Sahasrabuddhe, director, Dnyan Devi Childline, Pune. She said the quality and frequency of monitoring these institutions should be improved.
Asha Bajpai, author of Child Rights in India , said if the government has given permission to such schools to function, it should also ensure that children are looked after. “Besides, why should these be closed institutions? Why can’t students of a college or a college principal set up teams and visit these institutions regularly? That kind of monitoring by both the government and civil society will make a difference,” she said.
Kavita Ware, a researcher from Mumbai University who researched ashram schools for her M.Phil degree, said tribal students are being thrown out of the mainstream due to the substandard education they are provided. “There is absolutely no coordination between the schools and the bureaucracy. Basic medical facilities are not available here and many cases of assault, both sexual and physical, go unreported. The picture is extremely grim.”
Ms. Tikhe said the government is aware of these problems. “Many reports, with solutions, are available with government offices. Pushing the bureaucracy and showing political will are the two most important things for implementing those solutions,” she said.