Friday, January 19, 2007

Photo-state of schools in an urban slum in Delhi

Circa May 2005, Aditi Bhargava, an ex-intern of mine did a short exploratory study of schools in Sangam Vihar in Delhi. The study was part of an internship program at the Centre for Civil Society. Sangam Vihar is one of the largest slum townships in Asia with a population of about 4 lac. The basic research question was this: what and how are the schooling opportunities of the poor there? While her paper by itself demands study, I thought the photographs could speak a lot more.

Government schools in Sangam Vihar

This Primary School is run by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) for Classes I-V, and is located in I-block of Sangam Vihar. With 1000 students and 24 teachers out of which only 10-12 are present at a time, this school has been in existence since 1991 on the same premises. A rainy day for these children means a holiday from school.

Parents crowd around the Head Master’s Office in the ‘tent’ school during admissions.

A class in progress at the ‘tent school’ in I-block, Sangam Vihar.

This Primary MCD School is located in J-2 block of Sangam Vihar. This school has 1000 students with a total of 10 teachers. This photo was taken when class was supposedly in progress.

This is a photo of a class in another higher secondary government school in the same area. This classroom has been recently painted. Often it happens that government school expenditures are allotted strictly to line-items. So a budget for painting cannot be diverted to more productive needs if the Principal desires.

The area has about 3-4 government schools but still demand outstrips supply.

Private Unrecognised Schools in Sangam Vihar

An unrecognised school is one which doesnt have licence or permission from government and is not in accordance with government-framed regulations.

A sign on the building of an unrecognized school, advertising its facilities.

A ‘Computer Lab’ at the Quasi-recognised school in G-block of Sangam Vihar. The computers somehow seem more decoratory than functional.

Aditi interviewing the parents of the schoolkids. She is responsible for all the photos and undertaking the actual research.

That is me interviewing the parents. Most of them were highly enthusiastic about the education of their children. Not surprisingly, they wanted private school education at government school rates!

Three observations kind of hit you directly and have important influence on the policy understanding of Indian education.

1. The public conception of government schools can be very different from reality, and well, quite wishful. The standards that the government sets for private schools are often not followed by itself. The MCD government here has limited resources and a leaky implementation mechanism.

2. There is a booming private schooling market here. A school atleast in every gully! Of course, the quality is highly variable. Some are better than the government school but quite a few arent as well. Parents prefer to send their children to these private schools unless they want free/low-cost government education. It maybe that parents are buying into the "advertisements" and lack information to compare quality among various schools and choices.

3. Licensing restrictions in any good/ service generates its own "black market". And this private schooling black market is what we witnessed. Are these licensing/ regulatory barriers necessary?

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