Mahim Pratap Singh

Chhatarpur/Bhopal: While Bundelkhand is usually referred to as a grossly under-developed region of Madhya Pradesh, a village in Chhattarpur district might just qualify as “over-developed”, at least in the educational sphere.

Chhaapar village in Ishanagar/Chhattarpur block has as many as 11 government schools. With a population of just about 1,500, the village has one middle school, three primary schools and seven schools under the Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS). Adding to the irony is Tadera revenue village in the same block which does not have a single school.

Under the Education Guarantee Scheme, “the Government gives a guarantee to provide a primary schooling facility to the children in a habitation where there is no such facility within a km”. The EGS schools in Chhaapar operate within a distance of 200 to 300 metres from each other.

“This has just been brought to my knowledge and we are looking into it,” says Raghuraj Rajendran, CEO of Ishanagar block. The contract for mid-day meals to be prepared in all 11 schools has been given out to one NGO in which the panchayat secretary allegedly has a vested interest. The NGO, Ambedkar Swa-Sahayata Samooh, has hired several women workers to prepare the mid-day meals in the schools, which the villagers say are highly irregular.

Kala Bai, one such worker in charge of the Motiyan Purva school in the village, has migrated to Delhi for employment. Now her daughter Kavita cooks the mid-day meals in the school. Kavita, who studies in Class V in the same school, gets Rs.600 a month for cooking the meals. Students can also be seen sweeping school floors as teachers complain that there is no cleaning staff.

While the block CEO, other officials from the Education Department and villagers say that the village has too many schools, District Education Officer Bhishm Patel has a different story to tell: “There are only three schools in Chhaapar — one middle, one primary and one EGS school in the village and six other EGS schools under the village panchayat.” Other sources in the Education Department point out that the district has more EGS schools than required. “There are at least 12 schools under the EGS functioning illegally in the district for the past 11 years,” says an official on condition of anonymity.

“These schools are over and above the sanctioned number for the district. Moreover, there is no official record for these. On paper they do not exist, and yet they receive all incentives, salaries and other financial aid!” he says.