Bathinda, January 23: From being for the people, the primary education in government schools of Punjab has become for the Dalits only. Reason: The private and public schools are catching fancy of the upper caste farming community which is slowly but steadily dumping the government facility while deciding the schools of their wards.
Three separate studies of primary schools in districts of Bathinda - area of the Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal - Ropar and Ferozepur by the Punjabi University reveals that farmers across the state are no longer relying on the government to provide education to their children.
A tour of Bathinda district reveals a stark reality. Children from the backward communities comprise around 85 per cent of the student population in the government primary schools. For example, in Bir Behman village, out of the total 174 students, only 18 are from the general category. While 147 students belong to the scheduled caste category, nine are from the backward classes. �The school is now called as �Verha valaan da school� with �Verha� standing for Dalit areas in villages,� says its head Ravinder Kaur, adding that a branch of private school, which has opened in the village, is attracting a large number of children from the farming community.
The story in the other villages of the area is no different. Behman Diwana village has two private schools. The primary school there caters to the �Bazigar Basti�. All the students here are from the SC community. A little away in Lehra Baga village in Nathana block of the district, Jaspal Singh, who tills 12 acres of land, says the government primary school in his village has students mostly from dalit families only. He said like him, most farmers were sending their children to two private schools, which have sprung up in his village as well as in nearby areas. The studies, which focused on the �Socio-Economic Analysis of Primary Education in Rural Punjab� and were conducted by Kavita Rani, Manita Joshi and Jaswinder Kaur in Bhatinda, Ropar and Ferozepur districts, respectively, presents some telling facts. For instance, in Bathinda there is a decline of general category students in government and aided schools from 62 per cent in 1992 to 22 percent in 2005-06. In comparison, the population of SC students in these schools has increased from 26 per cent to 65 per cent during the same period.
Punjabi varsity professor Ranjit Singh Ghumman, who supervised the studies, said the number of SC students in private schools has just increased from 11 to 13 per cent during the same period.