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Kanki Mosehri in Bihar now boasts of a School

By Nairita Das

Patna, Nov 18 (ANI): The campaigning for Bihar elections by the ruling party projected the Development plank to justify the term which has just ended and seek a fresh mandate to continue with the momentum. In particular, much noise has been made about how the Education sector has been revitalized and has spread its reach to the farthest corners of the state. The passing of the Education Act which makes it a fundamental right for all children till the age of 14 years is needless to say, the backdrop to evaluate any progress in the field in any of the states.

The Bihar state government claims to have surged ahead in key sector even before the coming of this Act Indeed the Report of the state government and Economic Survey 2008-2009 is replete with examples of achievements in the educational sector.

According to the figures, in 2001 the literacy rate of Bihar was 47% while the literacy rate of India was 65.4%. In the same year the literacy of women in Bihar was only 30% while on national level it was 54.2%. The survey also reports that Bihar government had in its budget allocated Rs300.44 crore for education in 2007-2008 which was reportedly spent to the full. uriously in the preceding year 2006-2007 the educational budget was much higher, by a whopping figure of Rs594.0 crore. How come it was reduced in the following year? Does it mean that the literacy rate in Bihar had reached its zenith or are there other factors at play?

What is important is to assess how this translates on the ground. In particular the communities identified by the present government as the most vulnerable amongst the Dalits, who have remained historically excluded from development processes.In Darbhanga district, northern Bihar which remains underdeveloped and flood prone, the report states that the overall literacy rate was 44.3% with the men's literacy rate being 56.7% and women's literacy rate 30.8%. Taking steps to correct this or bring it up to acceptable levels, the Nits Kumar government took concrete steps to boost enrollment rates especially in primary schools. There has been a visible result with the school admissions registering an increase of 28.72% over the past 4 years.80 km from Darbhanga city, north Bihar is Kanki Mosehri village which comes under the Rasiyan Panchayat. Kanki Mosehri lies between three of the many rivers which run through the region.

Interestingly the 'Mosehris' fall within the 'Mahadalit' category and a slew of programmes announced for their welfare . In this village however there is no government school where the Mosehri children can go. Lakshmiyan, a village woman rues "Here there is neither any government school nor do we benefit from any government scheme .We don't even possess the lands of our own homes .We don't want our children to live in the same way as we have and that is why we want to educate them."Women take the lead to establish school A local NGO, Mithila Gram Vikas Parishad (MGVP) has stepped in to fill these lacunae. It runs a school in a makeshift building, and has around 60 children giving free education till Class V. It also provides school dress, registers, books, pencils and other necessary items , part of any school-going child's need . Narayan Jee Chaudhary, Coordinator of MGVP is a man driven by an intense sense of injustice for those who have not found a place in the sun, being excluded historically and now in the present dispensation. In doing so, it has ventured beyond its clear-cut project work. The organization essentially focuses on flood relief operations. Narayan Jee, believed that the need of the Mosehris in this crucial sector went beyond basic relief. And saw a window of opportunity to go beyond the immediate mandate of the porgramme. His eyes light up when he recounts "During the flood days, we came here to give the people relief material while talking to them I realised that illiteracy is the bigger evil which underlies their situation. I suggested the setting up of a school which the women took very seriously and asked their husbands to help in the construction of the school"However, the men held back and it was the village women sensing the critical importance of the task who took on the mantle. All the women came together and contributed their labour to fill about 10 feet of land near the river bank which falls in the midst of the flood-prone areas. The sense of participation, the spirit of the impoverished community was indeed heartening. The women were clear that they did not want to be compensated for their labour and said "You are building this school for our children, so can't we do this much?Narayan Jee is enthused. He says "After giving these children primary education, we will try to link them with some government school so that they continue like other children." The energy is tremendous.Rama Nandha a teacher says "I come from the nearby village and before I reach these children are at school." G, considering the school was carved out of an existing programme, teachers get a low salary, but the non-commercial benefits are paramount. Says Nandha "I get a salary of Rs. 2000 per month from the institution but on seeing the parents' and children's interest feel proud."The pay-off is more in terms of lighting up lives which have remained and would have continued to remain in darkness. Ramesh Kumar Sada,a 4th grade student of the school says: "I want to become a doctor because when we fall ill, we go through great difficulty. Here there is no doctor, no health centre and people die of illnesses. "

However, with all its spirit and intense energy, the MGVP is but a drop in the ocean. The fact that a non-governmental body needs to step in, with support from the community should not detract from the lacunae that there is no government school at Kanki Mosehri. According to Shafia Shahab a columnist of Charkha Features, education is the key to a resurgent Bihar and Nitish Kumar in recent statements has said that his aim is to remove the blot from the word 'Bihari'. In the efforts and claims to redeem the image of the 'Bihari' one needs to wait and watch if Mosehris will be part of this promise. By Shafia Shahab (ANI)

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