About a certain Coolie and his son

School children in Tamil Nadu

Image via Wikipedia

Last week,we were on our regular visits to the Koramangala slums with CRY like every Sunday evening.These visits ensure continuous enrollment of the slum children in schools and  to address any grievances that parents might have regarding this.

It was normal as usual till the moment when I was stopped a man who figured out we were about education and welfare of children. My fellow volunteer Tarun and I were stopped by him as the rest of the volunteers moved along. He asked what we were about and we told him that we were surveying whether or not the children of the community were going to the schools or not.

He told us, “I am sending my son to the government school. I may not be so educated but I know when they are teaching the children and when they are not”.

We asked him in broken Tamil, “What do you mean?”

“My son is in 7th Grade and he can’t even do basic arithmetic. I am a coolie and I work hard  so that these children don’t have to toil the same way.”

We knew that the state of the government schools in the locality was known for its inadequacy but what he said later shocked us more. He went on to say, “The teachers will promote them to the next grade if they are offered bribes. What is the point if my son reaches 10th standard and still don’t understand basic mathematics? He will have to be a coolie like me.” We told him we were raising a petition to the government to raise the bar for the government schools. I knew that our answer didn’t mean anything to him.

It is one thing to say that if we all the people become educated then who will be our coolies and who will do the lower level jobs? I do not want to even address that here but what bothers me the most is when children who want to learn don’t have adequate access to even substandard education.

The standard of education in government schools were found to be particularly low in and around this area. We have had many children and parents  complain that the children in the schools are subjected to discrimination by caste and corporal punishment is used without hesitation. We have also had reports from parents telling us that these children were only being taught songs. It would be incorrect to categorize all schools under the same roof of inefficiency since some of the schools do confirm to the apt norms. My point, therefore being, how do we as a community improve the standard of these schools?

One thing is for sure, the Indian Department of Education needs to be kept under constant check at  national, state and local levels; especially since there is limited accountability of faculty in these schools.

Things like establishing workshops to train the teachers on updated teaching methodologies can go a long way.

Also, offering vocational training to the children at least at the secondary school level can help. Vocational training could include basic training in Carpentry, Electrical, Tailoring, over shorter periods of time.

Interactive learning using computers maybe far-fetched but will certainly be effective in the long run. Computers from http://www.raspberrypi.org/ could go a long way for us.

Author: Ajith Alex Jacob
Editor: Tulika Dubey

8 thoughts on “About a certain Coolie and his son

  1. Policies similar to NCLB act in US can be brought into action. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Child_Left_Behind_Act . It has worked in US but with limited funds and high pupil teacher ratio , I am not sure whether this model would be completely successful in India.Still it would be a step towards the betterment of the primary education system.Few points proposed in it can be implemented easily. If this doesnt seem to come in the near future, an alternative would be private-public partnership where private schools are encouraged to takeresponsibility of government schools in terms of buliding infrastructures, teachers’ training programs and taking yearley exams. I am not saying that the administaration shoud be completely given to the private parties, but there should be a sort of partnership in the operations. Actually a little part of this idea was proposed in the present 5 year plan, but we are yet to see any effect.

  2. Last year in Madivala PAG, we had an enrollment drive, for that purpose some of us met the vice-principal of the local Government school. We were discussing about the re-enrollment of the children of the community. Then she made us aware of a certain flaw of the newly established RTE act. As per the RTE act till the 10th standard the student should be promoted to the next class no matter how his/her performance is i.e., the evaluation system is not strict at all. In this manner the weakest student gets pushed to the next class year after year affecting the student’s learning curve.
    And when the student has to appear for the board examination he/she fares miserably and in turn the state results go down.
    This might be the reason behind the coolie’s son not been able to perform well as there is no sort of compulsion on him to fare well.

  3. @Shreoshi and Alex: If it has been made compulsory to promote students no matter how he/she performs, then how come these teachers are asking for bribes to promote children to the next grade?.Don’t the parents know about this compulsory promotion?. About the lowering standards of education in the government school, there is always a trade-off between the quality and quantity and it is there in the education system too( e.g. the IIT-JEE case).In India we are still educating people about the importance of education.Policy-wise we can implement a system where there is a quality checking system(just like ISO) which gives its report annually about the performance through annual exams, regular visits and etc.I believe, doing something along those lines is certainly going to improve the quality or at least make the admins more sincere towards their jobs.

  4. Poor quality or significant lack of teachers in Government schools is a sorry state of affairs in our country. One option is for NGOs to interview and sponsor teachers for such schools and also followup on the progress. There will be issues involved with the execution of this idea, but maybe worth thinking about. About existing staff ethics , I think continuous awareness building in these schools and audit checks by NGOS ( with Govt permission for the same :-)) maybe an option

    • Iyer Sir,

      The NGO’s are short of good people that will help them keep the government in check. We need the citizens to step out into the field and start taking more action and keep the government in check

  5. Hi Ajith,

    I just read the short Note “About a certain Coolie and his son” and realized the seriousness of the issue in regard to Government School’s education standard, people expectations and society’s perspective.

    I have recently enrolled for CRYVOL Koramangala PAG and would like to understand how far I can be involved in various activities as I don’t know any of the SOUTH INDIAN LANGUAGE ?

    Best Regards

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