When journalist P. Sainath met him, Jain saab, 45, was the ‘head of departments’ cum sports officer and principal of the Government P.G College, Alirajpur, Madhya Pradesh. The meeting was recorded in Sainath’s magnum opus, Everybody Loves a Good Drought, in 1995. As Sainath wrote then: “The schooling system, despite many stupid experiments, is not designed to retain tribal children...it’s not the funds. It’s the lack of commitment.” He however ends optimistically with, “Many teachers agree that if primary schooling were universal, comfortable and affordable for tribals, things could improve dramatically.”
Twenty years later, Outlook visited Alirajpur. The tribal-dominated district has the lowest literacy rate (37 per cent) in the entire country. Since 2010, the Right to Education Act has made education free and compulsory for all. However, the number of students enrolled in primary schools in the district has decreased in 2,100 schools. “This is because most schools are functioning in the most pathetic manner,” says a senior IAS officer. “While rte has ensured that schools are built every few kilometres, we have miserably failed in ensuring that there is sufficient human resource to benefit students.” There are 2,400 schools in the district—there are as many vacancies (2,352) in teacher positions.