No Child Above Standard II

By Nepola Soibam

The issue of internal migration, from rural to urban India, is quite a visible and much discussed scenario of today. Such migration, whether seasonal, temporary or permanent, is commonly associated with livelihood based issue. However, the ASER 2013 field in Chandel district of Manipur had a different story. 

Chandel district, comparatively, reported less number of households and children (between 5 to 16 years) in ASER 2012 and I have heard reasons behind those numbers. So, in ASER 2013 I tried to see it for myself during the surveys of Chandel district. I decided to monitor at least in two villages, considering my short ASER visit in the state.

Both the villages I monitored happen to be in Chandel block and the field situation surprised me. Not that I don’t believe the state team’s earlier narrative, but it was quite an eye opening revelation. Both the villages have come as replacement villages, as during their visit the volunteers was found out that the original villages had less than 20 households.

In the first village, there were only 20 households of which 3 were locked as they have shifted to rented accommodations in town. From the available 17 households the team got only 14 children, of which 3 children were below 5 years of age. However, Census 2001 reported 35 households for that village. The second village had 49 households as per Census 2001 but only 11 of them could be found; out of which the house of village chief was locked as they shifted to Chandel town and visit the village occasionally. The second village had only 8 children, out of which one child was below 5 years of age.

The most interesting and surprising part of this story is –  of all the children in both the villages, not a single child is above Std. II and not a single child is drop-out or out of school. The villagers narrated that all older children stay in town for their education. Does it mean that the village school doesn’t function and the teacher doesn’t teach well?
“No, but the schools in towns are better” said a lady.

Sending children to town even for their primary classes has become a culture in those villages. Many such villages are reported from Chandel district. It is the reality; the reality that can only come across in a survey like ASER. However, data on the number of households and children tested in those villages would question the credibility of the surveyors, if one compares with census data or with ASER data from the remaining villages of the district. This heavy variance in the numbers of households and population between the government data and my personal field observation and also the changing mode and criteria for “internal migration” are quite a remarkable experience from the ASER 2013 in Chandel district.