It was on the 25th of September, some volunteers and I went to monitor a village which lies in an area bordering Assam, about 35 kms from Dimapur. It took us 2 hours on a motor bikes to reach that village because of thekutcha(makeshift) road.
As I had been to that village several times earlier, it was good to meet the Gaon Burah(Sarpanch) once again and alsothe teacher in charge of the government middle school (GMS). We had a good chat before proceeding with the school monitoring and the village mapping, followed by the household survey.
In one of the households while the volunteers were conducting the survey, the head of the household drew me aside and questioned me on many things: What is the purpose of the survey? What is done with the report? What are the other activities of ASER etc. He patiently listened to my answers and turned very thoughtful.
After a brief pause he started talking about the region and the condition of the government schools in particular. His tribe inhabited not only this village but also 86 neighbouring villages in the block. According to the prevalent custom of the region, whoever starts a new habitation in form of a village becomes the village head or Gaon Burah! This position is hereditary and passed on to the subsequent generations. The Gaon Burahis always the most powerful person of the village and decision making powers of the village are vested in him – ‘the other villagers are voiceless even if they are members of the village council’ he said!
Turning to education he said that, ‘some of the government appointed teachersof this region have good political connections and do not come to the villages, instead they pay money to the Gaon Burah to hire proxy teachers, who are invariably school drop outs from the village. The majority of students in these government primary schools are children of immigrants, who are poor and the wealthier locals send their children to the private schools in the nearest town.The children in the government primary schools after spending 5 to 8 years, and without acquiring any basic foundational skills like reading and mathematics, tend to drop out of the school system and end up migrating to urban areas to make a living – and end up becoming vagrants indulging in not so honourable activities.’
The volunteers had finished surveying this household, so I thanked the gentleman for cooperating with our volunteers and moved to next household.
Bendang Kokba, ASER Centre
All views expressed in this post are the author’s personal views