30 July, 2021

Pencil Erasure

Amidst the fuss over IIM fees, the government is quietly pushing inequity. A months-long probe by Outlook shows how the very poor are being short-changed on primary education.

Prakash Hatvalne
Pencil Erasure
It's unlikely that parents at Uba Paan are celebrating the proposed fee cut in the IIMs. In fact, in this tiny hamlet tucked away in the Jadol block of Rajasthan's Udaipur district, parents aren't even enthusiastic about sending children to school. Certainly, there were no students to be found in class here. But then, there was no school to be found either, not even the thatched hut that often passes for a school in rural India, on the wintry morning we from Outlook decided to get to Uba Paan's educational institution trudging through kilometres of uneven farmland.

Considerable effort from the helpful villagers did unearth a teacher though. A harried Bhagwat Singh whose excuse for playing hookey was "but I am not a full teacher, I am only a shiksha bandhu". It is the task of this "tenth-pass-from-open-school" to corral Uba Paan's variously aged children into a single class in a school with no building, and teach "all subjects", from Class I to V. Singh orders his wards to drag in two rickety chairs and a greying scrap of wood, his blackboard. And Uba Paan's Rajiv...

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