BY FR CARLOS LUIS SAC
Education should be our priority if we are aiming at forming humane citizens of the world. Unfortunately, it is disappointing to see that Goa has fared badly or, rather, slid from the otherwise fair position in the Union Education Ministry’s annual Performance Grading Index (PGI).
Goa has slipped down from the 750-800 points bracket out of a total of 1,000 points to the 521-580 bracket in the recent 2021-22 assessment released on July 7, 2023.
What is relieving is that, comparatively Goa did well, when it comes to teacher training and education, where it scored 74.4 out of 100. And saddening part is that it scored just 61.4 out of 240 for learning outcome and quality.
For other parameters like access and equity, we scored 66.3 out of 80 and 220.7 out of 260, respectively. The score for infrastructure and facilities was rather dismal at 76.2 out of 190, and governance processes were pitiful with a score of just 56.8 out of 130. With these sorts of scores, where are we heading?
Just a week ago, we heard of Government High School, Vasco, where the school concrete slab crashed down and electrical issues were experienced by students. These incidences reiterate to us that these seats of learning are being neglected.
It is noted that persistent complaints are not being addressed and that this is not the first instance. Similar occurrences took place last year in July at two government higher secondary schools in Valpoi.
What is worse is that over 700 plus government schools are in a sorry condition and need immediate attention, and nothing is being done. Are we waiting for a tragedy to happen? Undoubtedly the government is trying to do their best, but it isn’t sufficient, observing the pathetic conditions.
Regular and periodic maintenance of government schools needs to be done. The government should also allocate sufficient funds to do the repairs and renovations of these temples of education if need be.
If there is already a certain amount allocated, it needs to be properly channelised and should reach the concerned personnel who should be transparent and honest in carrying out works for which they should be held accountable.
Given that in today’s day and age parents have a better understanding of the education opportunities provided in different schools, they would expect higher standards from schools and would want a safe and secure environment for their children, conducive to educating them optimally.
The government must therefore also keep in mind the changing and evolving times and try to improve the facilities provided in the government schools. Or else we are surely going to meet the same fate as that of the 35 primary schools in Bardez that have been shut down and have become obsolete monuments of silence.
If there is a complaint of fewer students in government schools, then there is a need to reimagine and creatively restructure these buildings to various other possibilities. In Goa, we know of art lovers transforming their old Indo-Portuguese homes into veritable artistic representations.
We know of individuals converting their homes into restaurants, bookshops or libraries, retreat centres and many other productive spaces for the young and the old. If we put our minds to it, perhaps something good and better can be imagined.
Given that Goa is slowly but steadily implementing the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP), there is ample opportunity to reconceptualise these dilapidated schools into performance arts centres.
The recent national census suggests that the population of Goa has shot up to 15.7 lakhs, comprising the indigenous as well as the migrant. This suggests that these government schools are a requirement today more than ever.
The Goa Directorate of Education has committed itself to the upgradation and qualitative improvement of education and also the strengthening of the administrative machinery to effectively implement the policies in place.
Thus, these promises to form responsible citizens and provide for human development should be carefully observed.
In April this year, when the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) scheme annual review took place, the officials notified that there are schools in Goa that still have a single-teacher system and that the government needs to carefully address the situation before a shutdown takes place.
The government assured the officials that they would hire 142 teachers to do away with the single-teacher system in government schools. In other words, the government had promised that it will not allow the shutting down of any school with low numbers.
If Goa hasn’t fared well in the Union Education Ministry’s annual PGI, it gives a clarion call to all of us to work hand in hand to improve and better the situation. Pushing the responsibility onto the government alone will not suffice.
We need to be vigilant in employing progressive ideas. We need to awaken, motivate and orient our children towards education that is outcome-based so that what they learn will be of benefit to them and to the society in which they live.
I truly hope that it will start with at least one child, one teacher, one pen and one book, as Malala Yousufzai said - so that it can change the world we live in.
(Carlos Luis is a priest belonging to the Society of the Catholic
Apostolate (Pallottine) and is currently studying for a licentiate
degree in Moral Theology. He comments on social and moral issues.)