UPSC Essentials- Friday (13th May, 2022): Case Study of the week- Model Tea Garden Schools of Assam

The problem of school dropouts in rural areas is an important theme for Case Studies in GS IV, GS II, Essay, and Interview. Tora Agarwala’s article, “This is the way we go to school” in The Sunday Express of May 8, 2022, can be of great value -enrichment to your answers in UPSC-CSE preparation.

The case: Literacy and education have been crucial challenges for Assam’s tea garden areas. In the absence of high schools, children of garden workers had to travel far. 14-year-old Sonali had to rent a room for 400 Rupees, far away from the tea garden where her family lived for her higher education. Sadly, she returned to the tea garden when her mother fell ill and money ran out.

The issue: High levels of dropouts and low literacy rates among the tea garden youth.

The problems:

1) Lack of facility for education above lower primary schools in the tea garden areas.
2) According to the Plantation Labour Act of 1951, the management of the tea gardens is responsible for providing lower primary education. But the management had bigger problems of labor and wages to deal with, and the education of their workers was rarely a priority.
3) Poor infrastructure and lack of water and electricity worsen the condition of schools and education in the tea gardens.
4) In the absence of education, the tea gardens in Assam were flouting the Rights to Education Act and illegally employing children in the gardens.
5) Sending children away from tea gardens for higher education is a great financial burden for the poor tea garden workers.

The solution: Model Tea Garden Schools

Aim: To combat dropout rates and facilitate the completion of school education in the tea garden areas of Assam.
Objective: Children will not have to travel far for higher education. It will reduce the financial burden on the poor tea garden workers.

Model Tea Garden School at Namsang

Namsang has the most challenging and unique location due to the presence of dense rainforests. Earlier it had no water and no electricity. But now due to the government’s effort, a lot of positive changes have occurred.

1) installation of solar panels.
2) pump and purifiers to draw drinking water from the nearby river.
3) a plan to make a reservoir from the nearby river water harvesting.
4) a plan for a kitchen garden that can take care of supplies for mid-day meals.
5) the government is also requested to motivate the teachers by building residential quarters for the faculty.

Model Tea Garden School in Sepon

Persuading parents to send their children to school is not a small task. Parents do not see the point of education. A teacher has to go from house to house explaining to the workers the importance of education and why they should get their children admitted to the school. Interaction and communication are the key.

Remaining challenges:

1) Transportation of essential items through the dense forests in the schools.
2) Developing infrastructure on the ground does not necessarily mean successful implementation of the project.
3) The existing schools of pre-primary and primary levels need urgent focus.
4) The pandemic-induced learning loss has affected the tea garden children. A lot of work is needed to bring children to the level of the current syllabus.

Beyond the article:

Major problems faced by students in rural areas-
1) Lack of quality teachers in rural areas, poor remuneration, absenteeism of teachers.
2) Lack of transport and poor infrastructure.
3) Non- attendance and dropouts.
4) Government apathy and lack of finances.
5) Inaccessibility to modern learning tools.

Points to Ponder:

1)How can this article be useful in a case study or essay?
2) What is the importance of education in rural areas? What are some of the government’s initiatives to improve the condition of education in rural areas?

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