58-year-old Odisha MLA takes Matriculation exam with friends

Angad Kanhar encouraged his Sarpanch friend, driver to take the test along with him

April 29, 2022 05:16 pm | Updated 11:14 pm IST - BHUBANESWAR

Member of Odisha Legislative Assembly, Angad Kanhar. File. Photo: odishaassembly.nic.in

Member of Odisha Legislative Assembly, Angad Kanhar. File. Photo: odishaassembly.nic.in

For Angad Kanhar, a Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLA, age is just a number. The 58-year-old legislator, who could not appear for his Matriculation examination due to personal difficulties when he was in school, sat for the examination at Phulbani in Odisha’s Kandhamal district on Friday.

As 5.71 lakh students in Odisha appeared for the annual Matriculation examination physically for the first time after two COVID-19 pandemic years, Mr. Kanhar decided not to dally any longer.

The Phulbani MLA did not enter the examination hall alone. He was in the company of Sudarshan Kanhar, his batchmate from 1978, and the Sarpanch of the Luising gram panchayat in Kandhamal. The two people’s representatives were accompanied by Pitabasa Digal, the 24-year-old driver of the MLA’s vehicle.

“I am not embarrassed to appear for the Class X examination, being an MLA who has already crossed the age for pursuing an academic career. I have come across several instances of people aged above 60 and 70 years sitting for examinations. Rather, my appearance in school examination will send across a message that age should not be a hindrance for securing an academic degree,” Mr. Kanhar, who belongs to the Kondh tribe, said.

He elaborated, “In 1978, I would have appeared for my Matriculation examination. However, a family crisis came in the way of attempting it. Then I got busy in my political journey, becoming Sarpanch and Block Chairman before being elected as MLA.”

Previously, Ramesh Majhi, currently Nabarangpur Member of Parliament, had appeared in the Class 12 examination while a Minister in the Naveen Patnaik government. He subsequently went on to graduate during his tenure as a Minister.

In view of the soaring daytime temperatures, the annual Matriculation examination has been scheduled in the morning. Students are writing papers for the ‘Summative Assessment-II’ across 3,540 examination centres in the State.

According to latest Economic Survey, Odisha has done fairly well in retaining students at the primary level.  “The dropout rate for Odisha at the primary stands at 0.8 which is better than States such as Karnataka (1.2), Jharkhand (6.3), Chhattisgarh (1) and the national average of 1.5. Odisha’s performance at the upper primary level requires attention although it still fares better than some of the states,” the survey says.

However, the high dropout rate when compared with other key States at the secondary level remains a concern for Odisha. The gross dropout rate at the secondary level in Odisha is estimated at 23.6%, compared with States such as Kerala (7.9%), Chhattisgarh (18.3%), Karnataka (16.8%) and Jharkhand (16.6%), and the national average of 16.1%. The problem is particularly acute in tribal dominated districts such as Kandhamal, Gajapati, Keonjhar, Malkangiri and Koraput. The case of the Phulbani MLA is just an indicator of a deeper problem prevailing in the interior districts.

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