India Education
Two million Bihar students attend school sans books
Apr 16, 2007 - 9:40:41 AM

Patna, April 16 - Ten-year-old Ankita Saran's satchel is half empty. The books to be provided under a government scheme meant to improve school attendance have not been provided to her.

Ankita is not alone. Approximately two million school students across Bihar are yet to receive the books promised under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan -.

And the central and state governments are trading charges on the sorry state of affairs.

'I have been attending school without books for over a month. My teachers have told me that our books were not ready due to some problems,' Ankita, clad in her school uniform of white blouse and blue skirt, innocently told IANS.

Ankita is a student of the Rajkiye Kanya Madhyavidhalya - at Adalatganj in the heart of this Bihar capital. If this is the situation here, the plight of students in small towns across the state can be well imagined.

'The books to be provided free under SSA have still not been published,' an official said, admitting that this was 'bound to create problems' for students of government schools.

The books were to have been distributed by the Bihar State Education Council and Bihar State Text Books Publishing Corp.

While not directly ascribing a reason for the lack of books, Minister of State for Human Resource Development M.A.A. Fatmi has been quoted as saying that Bihar's performance in utilising funds allotted under SSA in 2006-07 was poor.

'Out of Rs.2,400 crore - sanctioned under SSA for the last fiscal, only Rs.1,400 crore has been utilised. This shows the government's lack of interest in improving the standard of education in the state,' Fatmi maintained.

According to the minister, this dismal record had also exposed the government's claims of opening new school and appointing 182,000 teachers.

'The Bihar government had opened only 29 new schools against the target of 16,000. It appointed only 101,000 teachers against the targeted 182,000,' Fatmi pointed out.

To add to this, sources said about 500,000 schoolbooks published last year under the SSA were dumped in storehouses due to official apathy.

Quite expectedly, government schoolteachers are not amused.

'Ultimately, it is the students who have to suffer,' they say ruefully.

It is estimated that about 1.4 million children aged 6-14 are not part of Bihar's school system. The state's literacy rate is a dismal 47 percent - well below the national average. The school dropout rate is also very high.

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