Indian Express, March 25, 2007
BETUL (MADHYA PRADESH), MARCH 24:Last fortnight, The Indian Express reported how textbooks meant for school students, under the government’s showpiece Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan — largely funded by the education cess you pay — were being sold here in scrap at Rs 2 a kg. As many as 24,932 books were seized from a godown in Betul and Umri
Jagir village. Officials recommended a probe by “professional agency.” While that probe is yet to begin, The Sunday Express toured the district and found students in several schools still waiting for books nine months after their session began and just weeks before their examinations are due. And found records fudged to show that books had been distributed when, in fact, they were sold as scrap.
• First stop: Barangwadi school, about 60 km from the district headquarters. Not a single student in Class VII received any Mathematics textbook. In a class of 57 students, 38 are still waiting for their English textbooks, 39 for their Social Studies textbooks and 15 for Sanskrit textbooks.
“If there are no books in Betul, how can we give any book to you,” teacher Nandkishor Mohobe quoted officials in the Block Resource Coordinator’s office at Betul as telling school staff when they asked for books. “We told parents they were free to buy from the market. Even if books were available, they would have not been able to purchase them because many of them can’t afford it,” class teacher Santulal Dhurve said.
Then he did what comes naturally in a remote village like this. He asked for books from those who had graduated only to find that their copies were tattered and the syllabus had changed. So a few “unchanged chapters” in these second-hand books were highlighted and students were told to “group study.”
• Second stop: Chhipnia Pipri school, about 65 km from Betul. 41 of 57 Class VII students are waiting for Social Studies textbooks, 15 for Mathematics books and 28 for Environment books. “I pursued the matter until September but then I gave up,” says class teacher S C Pal. “Because by that time, the first semester examination was already over.”
“The books are not even available in the market. No one keeps them because they are meant to be available for free,” school in-charge P C Hurmade said.
• Third stop: Dehelwada, a few km from Chhipnia Pipri. Not a single student in Classes VI and VII (total strength 67) received Social Studies books. All 34 students of Class VII are waiting for English textbooks while 20 of their classmates are also waiting for Mathematics books. “There used to be some discrepancies in supply but never anything like this,” school in-charge M R Yadav said. “We had to plead with those who had passed their exams and gone to higher classes to spare their old books for their brothers and sisters,” Yadav said.
• Fourth stop: Malegaon school. The school register is in a locked cupboard and the key is with school in-charge who is not around. Seven of 12 students present in Class VII say they are still waiting for Social Studies books. Many have bought some copies of Mathematics, English and Environment books from the market but there are students who haven’t. Bhagchand Yaduvanshi, who teaches both Class VI and VII in this school, devised his own formula to distribute the few books he got. “I began with girls followed by Harijan and OBCs,” he said. He was told the remaining books would come some day.
• Fifth stop: Chirapatla school in Chicholi block. Several students in Std VII haven’t received Mathematics books. This includes 13-year-old Laxmi Karoche, whose father Mehkum is president of Parents-Teachers Association of the primary section. Mehkum was told the books had been distributed among all students. Complaints have been received from several students in schools in Badakhedi, Shambhuwada, Mangara and Bhumka Dhana and Jandehi villages in Amla block and several villages in the remaining nine blocks of Betul district.
For the record, M K Singh, commissioner of Rajya Shiksha Kendra, the nodal agency which received the over 2 lakh books for distribution, told The Sunday Express: “We have received a report signed both by the district collector and the district project coordinator saying that books were distributed to all eligible students. I will get it verified. Our official probe has pointed out irregularities so we have recommended removal of the DPC.” State education minister Narottam Mishra was unavailable for comment.