13 Sep - I was traveling from Patna to Santiniketan (Bolpur) in West Bengal, India. I had a train to change at Bardhamman, and I took a local train from Bardhamman to Bolpur. At a rural station known as Jhapterdhal and then at Banpas, I found lot of students, good number of them girls in their teens got into the train. Since the train was already full, most of these students were standing. As they were talking to another lady passenger in the train, I joined in. The students were all scheduled to get down at Guskara (after three stations), and they were going for private tuition in English. So, I asked them why they do not pay the teacher to come to their place so that so many of them need not go to Guskara. They replied that the teacher was coming from a place called Bhedia which is closer to Bolpur, and so it was some kind of adjustment that the students from all sides can come to Guskara. I also found that all the students were studying in their 12th Grade (+2 as it is known in India), and if they pass this year they will be eligible to join the college next year for Under Graduate courses. I passingly asked if they would be returning from Guskara and then would go to school. They said, "No"! When I enquired about the reason I was shocked! The girls go for the classes on every Wednesday and Saturday, and then they return to their homes by when it is 11.00, and they take breakfast and that is it! Because by then the schools have started and they cannot go to school. So, every week they do not attend classes on two days. I encountered them with volley of questions to understand further, and then I motivated them that they should write to the education department requesting that special classes for learning English be arranged so that the girls and boys need not lose two days of classes. On an average nearly 40% of school days these students were losing only with the hope of passing in English and get off to fight it out in life.
I thought that total dependence on tuition was mostly in states like Bihar. But I never thought that the situation is changing in West Bengal as well, as children are fighting to stand on to their toes to ensure continuance of their education. I am thankful to Mr. Ganesan and the teachers in my school where I did my 12th grade. They gave special classes in the morning and evening so that, though we were studying in a Tamil medium school, we could pass without having to spend additional time and money to pass in the school final exams.
Governments must take efforts to streamline education, help find alternate solutions for rural children to pass out strongly, and not be dependent on the private tuition that has become the bane of society.