Wednesday February 26, 2020

Resurrect Government schools to revive our education system

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By Harshmeet Singh

Government educational institutes in the country are a study in contrast. While the Government controlled institutes of higher education such as the IITs and IIMs rank among the best in the world, the government run primary schools are in shambles since time immemorial. From avoiding government schools as a kid to aspiring for government colleges for higher education, the students witness contrasting aspects of education system in the country.

With the Right to Education coming into force in 2010, Education was made a fundamental right in the country. While it drastically improved the enrollment ratio in schools, it remained silent on the quality of education that the child deserves.

The result? According to the 10th Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), about 1/4th of the class eight students in India can’t read the text meant for class 2nd. Reports like these underline the fact that national literacy rate of 74% is just eyewash.

Nowhere is the division between India and Bharat more evident than in our education system. A multitude of problems have been plaguing our education system for quite a while. The first and foremost is the lack of funds when it comes to government-run schools. While the private schools get a shot in the arm by raising enough finances through sky-high fees, the government schools are at the mercy of the budgets allocated by the government. Not only can the government slash the budgets anytime (like Jaitely did this year), only a fraction of the total allotted sum reaches the ground. Nothing else can justify classrooms where kids sit on the floor due to lack of chairs and no lectures taking place in the rainy season since the classroom has no roof. For long, government schools have been regarded as the dumping ground for the kids who couldn’t afford anything better.

Another factor that has further aggravated the problem is our affinity towards the English medium private schools. Realizing the financial potential of the idea of opening a private English medium school in small areas, a number of such schools have mushroomed in our villages over the past decade or so. The parents, who are usually poor farmers in such cases, willing to give their child the best possible education, admit them to these schools. And thus begins the erosion of their savings. Most of these private schools pay a meager salary to their teachers (Rs 500-1500 per month) since their solitary aim is to fill their own purses. It is impossible to imagine any learned teacher working for such a sum. With the parents themselves being too uneducated to check their kids’ progress, they continue paying the fee from their hard earned money, under the delusion that their kid is learning.

But if teacher’s salary determines his dedication towards his students, why is the standard of teaching so dismal in government school? While the government schools pay their teachers a healthy salary, they do not impose any accountability on the teachers. Unlike the teachers in the private schools, the teachers at government schools have a permanent job with almost no chance of being ousted (unless they create a major blunder). There are hardly any checks on whether the teachers are actually teaching in the classroom or whether the syllabus is covered in the allotted time period or not. And for those who give their best inside the classroom, the rewards are few, in any. The promotions are arbitrary and majorly based on your tenure and your connections. Their performance inside their classroom is seldom appreciated by anyone. All these things are no secret, but that hasn’t forced anyone out of their slumber.

While we take utmost pride in making education a fundamental right in our country, we must accept that much more needs to be done. Imagine what if the solution to some of the world’s biggest problems lies in the mind of a kid who goes to a school where teacher never turns up! Let’s do ourselves a favor by taking care of our school system.

 

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Cameroon Starts a Program to Save Its Native Languages

Here's How Cameroon Plans to Save Disappearing Languages

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Native languages
A teacher writes in Ewondo, one of Cameroon's native languages, at a school in Yaounde. VOA

Cameroon is commemorating International Mother Language Day, February 21, by launching what it calls an ambitious program to save its endangered national languages.

The central African state has over 260 national languages, but only 40 are taught in schools.  Cameroonians speak mostly French and English, which are foreign but official languages and part of an entrenched separatist conflict that has cost about 3,000 lives since 2017.

At the multilingual and inclusive government primary school Yaounde, 150 children between the ages of five and 11 years old learn how to count in Ewondo, a Cameroon national language spoken in the country’s central and southern regions. The students are also taught the national anthem and patriotic songs in Cameroon national languages.

Businessman Emmanuel Mbom, 31 years old, says he is satisfied at the progress made by his six-year old son at the school.

Native languages
Fabienne Freeland, director general of the nongovernmental organization Summer Institute of Linguistics, helps Cameroon in promoting the teaching of its native languages. VOA

“In my situation, my wife and I speak two different languages, native languages so my children try to pick what they can pick,” Mbom said.

Mbom says he is confused about which language to teach his children because his language is Sawa, spoken in the Littoral and Southwest regions of Cameroon, and his wife is from the Northwestern town of Nkambe, where the Limbum language is spoken.

Cameroon’s secretary of state in the ministry of basic education, Asheri Kilo, says she is satisfied with the level of interest the children display at speaking their national language.

“It is very impressive the way the children are taken into learning their languages, and I decided to check how many children are from other regions rather than Yaounde and I figured that there were children from all the 10 regions in Cameroon,” she said.

Cameroon has 260 national languages spoken by an estimated 25 million people in the 10 regions of the country. It is one of the countries the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) classifies as a distinctive cultural density on the linguistic map of the world.

However, the central African state inherited two foreign languages from its French and English colonial masters as official languages, with 80 percent of the population speaking French and 20 percent English.

Fabienne Freeland, director general of the nongovernmental organization Summer Institute of Linguistics that helps Cameroon in promoting the teaching and learning of its national languages, says the official languages have not been effective tools of communication.

“French and English has its limits on development in this country,” Freeland said. “When there was a cholera outbreak in the far north, it is only when the information started coming in Fufulde that people started changing behavior and the cholera was stopped.”

Native languages
Asheri Kilo, secretary of state in Cameroon’s ministry of basic education, is encouraged by students’ interests in learning their native languages. VOA

Cameroon’s national institute of statistics reports that four percent of the central African states’ local languages — including the Mbiame language spoken in the country’s English-speaking Northwest Region and the Ekung language in the South — have disappeared since 1950. Ten percent of the 260 languages are neglected and seven percent are threatened.

Seraphine Ben Boli, who heads the program to promote the use of Cameroon national languages, says a pilot program that is being implemented in the 10 regions of the country to save the remaining mother tongues from disappearing.

She says the ministry of basic or elementary education is experimenting with the teaching of five national languages in 43 schools throughout Cameroon. The languages chosen, for now, are Ewondo, Bassa, Douala, Womala and Fufulde, because of their national popularity. She says apart from the experimental schools, teachers in all educational establishments have received instructions and training to teach Cameroon national languages spoken in the areas where their schools are found.

Boli said Cameroon will decide by 2030 on which of the languages can be used as an official language, added to English and French. She said by so doing, they intend to solve the separatist crisis that has within the past four years claimed at least 3,000 lives just because people are divided as a result of two inherited colonial languages.

Separatists have been fighting to create an English-speaking state out of the French-speaking majority. The separatists say the education, legal system and cultural practices they inherited from their British colonial masters are different from those left by the French, who colonized the French-speaking regions of the country. Cameroon believes by having its own national language as an official language, many of its citizens will feel like Cameroonians, unlike in the past when they considered themselves either French or English.

Also Read- France Takes Steps to Shift to More Renewables For Energy

UNESCO says it celebrates mother tongue day because it believes in the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity for sustainable societies and it is within its mandate for peace that it works to preserve the differences in cultures and languages that foster tolerance and respect for others. (VOA)