Sri Mastram Vinay Higher Secondary School in Gujarat’s Utavali village, which was the focus of a 2014 report in The Indian Express which highlighted how students had to cross a river each day to reach the school, has recorded the lowest pass percentage in the state — 19.27%.
Of the 358 students from the school who appeared for their SSC (Class X) exams in March this year, only 69 have passed, statistics from the Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board show. The school had recorded a pass percentage of 45.21% in 2015.
On August 3, 2014, The Indian Express had reported about how about 125 children from 16 tribal villages of Sankheda taluka in Chhota Udepur district cross the raging Hiran every day with the help of brass vessels to get to school in Utavali in Narmada district.
On August 20, 2014, the Gujarat government cleared a pending proposal for a bridge on the river after the National Human Rights Commission slapped a notice on the state’s chief secretary, taking cognizance of The Indian Express report. The construction of the bridge commenced in October last year.
In the monsoon of 2014, an NRI couple from New York visited the village and donated an inflatable motorboat to help the children. But in 2015, deficient monsoon meant the river did not swell and the boat could not be used.
Since then, most of the 125 children have opted out of the school as two schools run by private trusts have opened closer to their villages.
Kanti Baria, principal of Sri Mastram Vinay Higher Secondary School, said students were given “additional” attention during this academic year. “We have regular teaching staff here and gave the students additional coaching for exams. The results are disappointing; the children are not studying well,” Baria said.
Of the 358 students who took the exam, seven used to swim across the river, Baria said. Four of them passed.
Narmada district also recorded the lowest pass percentage in the state — 32.56%. Out of the 11,777 registered Class X students, 11,730 appeared for the exam and 3,819 passed. The district has fallen behind the neighbouring tribal district of Chhota Udepur, which had recorded a pass percentage of 20.86% in 2015. This time, that figure is up to 52.34%.
D B Patel, district education officer (higher secondary), blamed parents for the children performing poorly. “The trend in this part of the state is that parents leave their children with relatives and go out of the district to work as labourers. This has an adverse impact on children as they are not taken care of. This is one of the reasons for the poor performances,” Patel said.
He added that the district was facing a shortage of teachers. “Those who are selected according to their eligibility criteria do not want to be posted here in Narmada. Despite attempts by the government, teachers want to get a transfer. They do not attend school. We are helpless in this matter,” he said.