This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Teaching Teachers Commitment

"[Widespread teacher truancy could only occur if] my officers are hand in glove with the teachers."
"That's when I took the problem seriously [aware his officers reported truants as being present] and realized I needed to do something about it."
"Whether they teach or don't teach, I can't tell. But now, at least, they come to school."
Manoj Mishra, district education officer, Uttar Pradesh, India

He's the first anyone had met like him, a government officer so bold and unbending."
"Everyone except the teachers was happy with his work."
Pratap Pathak, reporter, Dainik Jagran, Hindi daily, Deoria, India
(Manoj Mishra, a district education officer, right, talks to a school principal in Deoria.) The Times of India

This is corruption writ large. Well-paid jobs given to people with connections. People with little intention of honouring their commitments and the teaching profession and the expectation by rural dwellers that their children would be suitably educated at the state schools they attended. Many teachers worked jobs other than their teaching job, not bothering to show up in the classroom, simply cashing their cheques. They became accustomed to bribing officers who reported to Manoj Mishra that they were duly fulfilling their duties.

In 2005 a nonprofit, Pratham Education Foundation, conducted a survey reporting that about 60 percent of fifth graders in rural India were incapable of reading over a minimum second-grade level. By 2014, less than 50 percent of students still could not read at their fifth grade level. Well paid teaching jobs were to be had with the right political connections. The position-holders decided they had no inclination to travel to remote areas to teach, so they simply did not bother showing up.

India passed legislation ten years ago doubling education spending, increasing teacher salaries and reducing class sizes in an effort to ensure than over 200 million primary school children were prepared academically to take their place as adults in a modern work force. The intention and the funding were in place, but nothing seemed to come of it all. The most populous state in India, Uttar Pradesh was experiencing an epidemic of teacher no-shows.

Mr. Mishra was appointed to oversee the Deoria district's 2,700 schools in 2014 where an estimated 40 percent of the teachers simply absented themselves on any given day. In some states teacher absences run to 46%. The 42-year-old Mr. Mishra took his job seriously. Shortly after his arrival to take his job in Deoria, text messages flooded in from people with complaints of teachers rarely attending school. He called in his officers, collected their cellphones and dispatched them to schools.

The schools they were sent to deliberately were not those they were normally in charge of supervising. They came back with reports on absences that shocked Mr. Mishra. In one subdistrict, 73 of its 245 teachers had been absent from their assigned schools. The discovery was made that some of the teachers' homes were nowhere close to the schools they were assigned to. One teacher lived in a New Delhi suburb, which was a two-hour flight from the Deoria area. Yet another hadn't been seen to appear in a school for six years.

Then began the crack-down, as teachers were called, one after another into Mr. Mishra's office to plead for leniency and proffer excuses or letters of commendation written by political figures. Mr. Mishra began to receive death threats, he has been roughed up, his desk upended, and he has been vociferously condemned in protests taking place outside his office. Supporters of the teachers which included ministers and legislators demanded that he ease up his campaign for accountability.

Ye responded by arming himself, by hiring private security guards, and by placing cameras in his office. Now, however, Mr. Mishra can announce with satisfaction that teacher attendance has undergone a spectacular recovery with above 90 percent attendance. He had led raids on the schools monthly, setting up a toll-free number to report truant teachers and painted that report on every school wall.

Locals were enthralled and gathered to watch the school inspections. Teachers were seen sprinting across town to reach classrooms before Mr. Mishra and his officers arrived. Next on the agenda: improving the quality of the teaching.

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