Nabarangpur the non-descript south Odisha district which also happens to be one of India’s poorest holds the distinction of a pass percentage of 91.87% in the Odisha Class X Board. This achievement catapults Nabarangpur to the fifth rank among the state’s 30 districts. What’s remarkable is that this achievement has comes with an over 9 % jump compared to last year when the district scored 82.60 % and stood 18th in the state.
The results are astonishing for a district that is plagued by some of the most dismal indicators for education and is the focus of a year-long assignment by The Indian Express to track poverty and transformation. According to the Census 2011, literacy in the district stood at 46.43 %, way below the national average of 74.04 %. Besides, a gargantuan 57.35 % of the population has never attended school.
The district also faces a crippling shortage of teachers. According to 2015-16 data provided by the District Education Office, Nabarangpur’s elementary schools needed 985 teachers while the secondary schools were short by 290 teachers.
“History has been created in Nabarangpur,” said District Education Officer Kulamani Nathsharma. Nathsharma credits these “spectacular results” to “persistent monitoring, inspection and tracking of teachers’ attendance”. “We have achieved 100% student enrolment. In January-February, before the exams, we have made it a practice to hold remedial classes for children who need additional assistance besides classroom teaching — an hour each in the morning and evening. This year, 14 upper primary schools were upgraded to high schools and 4 of the 10 CBSE model schools will start intakes of students for this academic year,” he said.
While these measures are indeed praiseworthy in themselves, there is still some catching up to do. “This is a poor district and there are some very remote villages that are cut off from the block or district headquarters. The teachers, who get posted to these places report for duty, leave and don’t return. There must be some way of keeping teachers back or maybe getting local teachers,” said the principal of a school in Jharigam block who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
According to the District Information System for Education (DISE) data for 2014-15, Nabarangpur also sports a high dropout rate of 24.23 % for Class 8, compared to 4.88 % for Odisha and 6.88 % nationally.
“The tracking system under Right To Education (RTE) is very strong but that’s only until they clear Class 8. After that, girls either drop out to get married or because the high schools are far away from their homes,” said Radhanath Behera, a retired principal of Nabarangpur College, one of the only two degree colleges, both private, in the district headquarters.
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