From Thermocol Rafts to Moon Landings: Navigating The Contrasting Education in Modern India

I’m sure almost everyone has heard their parents recite stories about how they went to school back in their days. The adventures they endured just to reach their schools were caused by the absence of normal facilities like proper roads. They have also never failed to mention how lucky we are as our schools have electricity and modern technology, whereas they had to struggle through the day in the absence of electricity.

That was back in what we might call the 20th century, quite a long time ago. But now that technology has advanced to an extent where we have reached the surface of the moon, what if I were to tell you that even today, while on one end, India is on the moon, on the other end, in the same India, there’s a small village in Maharashtra where students use thermocol rafts and fight off water snakes to get to their schools?

In the small village of Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar (formerly known as Aurangabad), lives Prajakta Kale, who is barely 11, and 15 of her schoolmates. These students use a thick thermocol sheet as a raft and makeshift oars to cross the kilometer-long stretch of the backwaters of the Jayakwadi dam. They also use bamboo sticks to fend off water snakes that climb onto the thermocol sheet. This is because the backwaters of the dam have divided the village into two sections, and the students now have to cross the backwaters daily.

One section of the dam’s backwaters has split their village into two sections. This situation has persisted for 47 years since the dam was built, yet no solution has been found.

You might think that after 75 years of independence and many more years of electricity in India, schools where we shape the future of our country would be equipped with advanced technology and a steady supply of electricity. But what might surprise you is that even after so many years, many schools in Maharashtra don’t have access to electricity.

While the constitution of India fundamentally provides us with the right to education for each student, what about the provisions required to turn this right into reality?

According to official data, electricity bills worth ₹25 crore are pending from these schools. The power supply to 6,752 schools has been cut off from the main line, and the electricity meter in the remaining 2,526 schools has been disconnected. As a result, students are unable to use electronic devices for studying or completing assignments.

A school teacher from a Nasik Zilla Parishad school said, “For the last five months, some of the teachers have contributed and paid ₹6,450 for the bills. There are many schools where teachers always follow this practice.”

Despite spending from their own pockets, the state does not reimburse these teachers. He added, “Instead, the state only pays bills for schools that have a due.”

According to the rules, the state government should pay electricity bills, but the disbursement is managed by the Zilla Parishad, gram panchayat, or the primary education department. However, since August 2022, authorities from several districts have been unable to pay electricity bills due to a lack of funds from the state.

In April 2022, the then Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar assured that the necessary funds for Zilla Parishad schools could be allocated in the budget for the year. Regarding the tariff, Pawar had mentioned that the electricity regulatory commission would categorize electricity connections in schools separately, similar to those for residential and commercial purposes. However, none of these measures have been implemented so far.

“However, since there is no electricity in the schools, the students cannot use the computers provided by the government or NGOs. This is causing an educational loss for them,” said a teacher from Marathwada.

During winter, the students manage because the weather is cool, but it becomes difficult during the scorching hot summers.

The state government recently announced the establishment of 100 model schools in rural areas. What I don’t understand is why the government is focusing on building new schools rather than developing the existing ones and paying off the bills to restore the electricity supply. These new schools will likely face the same fate as the existing ones.

Our students are the future of this country. It was a student who had the dream of reaching the moon and made it possible. It was a student who aspired to make India proud and won a gold medal in the Olympics. Similarly, there are one or perhaps many students in these schools who dream big, and it is the government’s responsibility to help them achieve their dreams. Instead of focusing on power plays within the state, the government should prioritize its people, who elected them into power, all for the sake of development and improvement.


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