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No more ‘teacherless’ schools in Bihar

© UNICEF/India/Kaushik/2005
Bihar needs 150,000 primary school teachers. The state recruited 80,000 teachers recently. UNICEF supported their training.

By Vinay Kaushik

In Bihar, over 2.7 million children do not go to school.  Part of the reason is because 60,000 odd schools need teachers.  In 2002, Bihar had more than 190,000 vacancies for school teachers.  The state has, on an average, 1 teacher per 84 pupils.  The national average is 1 teacher per 40 pupils. Under a joint programme, UNICEF and the Bihar government have recruited and are training 80,000 teachers across the state.  Fifty percent of these are women teachers.

Gaya, Bihar – September 2005: With the mercury touching 120 degrees in the shade, and all life seemingly immobile, Asha, a nine-year-old perky girl with neat pig-tails, prefers herding her goats than attending school.  “Why would I want to walk three miles in this heat to go to a school with no teachers?” she asks disdainfully.  Asha wants to grow up and be a filmstar.
“We have been advocating strongly for the recruitment of teachers, and arranged for their training so that they take to the classroom the quality of teaching that children need.”

However, the scene is changing fast as 80,000 locally recruited teachers (Panchayat Shiksha Mitras) trained by UNICEF in association with the Government of Bihar, have appeared on the scene. As a result, the situation is all set to change. UNICEF State Representative Bijaya Rajbhandari says, “We have been advocating strongly for the recruitment of teachers, and arranged for their training so that they take to the classroom the quality of teaching that children need.”

In 5th century BC, Bihar, known then as Magadh, was famous as a great centre of learning.  It boasted one of the largest universities in the world in Nalanda District, housing more than 10,000 students and over 2,000 teachers and attracted students from such far away places as China and Mongolia.

Today Bihar has over 2.7 million children who do not go to school.  Part of the reason is because 60,000 odd schools here need teachers.  In 2002, Bihar had more than 190,000 vacancies for school teachers.  The state has, on an average, 1 teacher per 84 pupils.  The national average is 1 teacher per 40 pupils.

 

© UNICEF/India/Kaushik/2005
Bihar has, on average, 1 teacher per 84 pupils. The national average is 1 teacher per 40 pupils.

Getting children into schools in Bihar has been a top priority for UNICEF.  In 2002-2003, UNICEF worked with the government to recruit and train 42,000 teachers.  However, the training had to stop because of litigation initiated by a group of disgruntled teachers who protested the recruitment methodology.  In 2005, when the courts dismissed the petition UNICEF urged the government to begin recruitment and training again.

To ensure that the quality of education is not compromised, UNICEF worked with the government to plan and establish the training infrastructure.  All the training modules, monitoring tools and strategy for the training exercise were developed by UNICEF.
“The challenge is to communicate a whole lot of letters and numbers; reading, writing and good habits like hand-washing with soap before eating – all in a simple, matter-of-fact way”. 
At the training centre, located in a school building, the room is surcharged with energy. Mohammed Haseeb, a Registered Medical Practitioner in Delhi, is one of the student teachers.  His passion for teaching and love of children made him give up his practice and go to Bihar to teach.  During the thirty days of intensive training, he will learn to sing, enact songs, play games and tell educational stories to children between the age of six and fourteen years.  Says he “The challenge is to communicate a whole lot of letters and numbers; reading, writing and good habits like hand-washing with soap before eating – all in a simple, matter-of-fact way”. 

In Bihar, 60 percent of children drop out of school at the primary level and around 75 percent at the middle level.  The proportion is higher for girls.  Under the programme, UNICEF and the Bihar government have recruited and are training 80,000 teachers across the state.  Fifty percent of these are women teachers as studies have shown that women teachers help improve enrolments and attract more girls to school.

The newly recruited teachers have already started going to classrooms; and schools that had, so far, been functioning with one or two teachers will now have some more. It is possible that Asha will find a reason to go to school, a reason that will change many more children’s lives in Bihar.

 

 

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