Meghalaya attempts to restore educational hub tag by supporting rural schools

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In keeping with the priorities of Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) led by National People’s Party (NPP) headed by Conrad Kongkal Sangma, one of which is education, the government has taken up various projects confined to rural areas.

Conrad had earlier donated his one month’s salary towards the rural school, and at the same time had requested other leaders to adopt rural schools. Swapnil Tembe, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer serving as the Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO) of Dadenggre civil subdivision, in the remote West Garo Hills district of Meghalaya, has donated his two months’ salary to renovate the rural schools.

Again on March 5, 2019, Chief Minister handed over school buses to five schools covered under the Chief Minister Rural Development Fund (CMRDF). The primary objective of the programme is to generate wage employment and creation of socially and economically useful public assets by involving people participation at the grassroot level. The schemes undertaken in the programme are varied in nature and are selected by the Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) and NGOs and are implemented through local durbars and beneficiaries’ organizations under the supervision of respective Deputy Commissioners of the District.

Conrad handed over the keys of the buses to the representatives of the respective schools hailing from different parts of the state.

Conrad stated that the project is reiterating his government’s commitment to improve the education sector in Meghalaya. He said that the government is taking up different activities under the program. Also, the government is coming up with Eklavya model residential schools in the state. He informed that that out of the 50 residential schools selected across the country, 11 of them are in Meghalaya.

The foundation stone of one such school was laid at Boldamgre, eight kilometres from Ampati in South West Garo Hills was held recently. Knowing well the education status is extremely bad in the rural areas, all such support will surely bear fruits in near future.

But the situation in the urban sector has its own unique problems, be it for the parking problems to dealing with the contemporary students with sophisticated attitude and gadgets, while the pass-percentage keeps dropping.

The CMRDF project, where five buses were handed over to different schools, will surely ease the difficulties of the students in the rural areas who have to travel long distance. But in the urban areas, it is the reverse, where the individual car dropping and picking the students is causing traffic congestion during school hours in the city.

More than solving the traffic congestion in the state capital, particularly during school hours, the authorities concerned should think for the School children first, as most parents who drop and pick up the children are either novice drivers or without even the driving license. Then the limited parking places within the vicinity of the educational institutions, where many parents park their vehicle after dropping their wards till the school gets over causes the jam in the city. Therefore, public transportation, in this case the school bus, is the solution to ease the traffic flow.

As the school managements in urban sector are better off, the state government should instruct the school authorities to procure school buses as mandatory which will ease the traffic congestion. Even the Supreme Court has issued guidelines for school buses. Some of the important considerations are – “SCHOOL BUS” tags must be clearly and prominently mentioned on the back and front of the buses, the bus must have a medical first aid box and a fire extinguisher. The speed of the bus is also important — it should not exceed 50 kmph. The windows in the bus should be fitted with horizontal grills for the safety of the children. The driver and conductor should wear proper uniforms for better identification. All vehicles should have a valid annual fitness certificate. The name of the school and contact details must be written on the bus and the bus doors should be fitted with reliable locks.

The Court had earlier order that all educational institutions should have enough space for parking and enable the vehicles to drop and pick up the students inside the campus. This was never adhered to by any of the schools and colleges, including the government schools while almost all the schools expect the parents to own a vehicle such that the students will reach the school in time.

More than confining to the educational institutions to regulate traffic flow, the district administration should regulate parking space for Government offices, execute the Supreme Court Order on hotels, eateries, commercial complexes and hospitals to have the provision of ‘enough’ parking space within the premises, which will ease more than fifty percent of traffic congestions in the city, and ensuring safety not only to the school children but every individual citizen in the city.

Make it compulsory for the school to have public transport, which the Defence and Police departments are adopting; this will not only ease the traffic congestion but also maintain the safety and security of the students. The bus driver and conductor, if needed, with a security personnel can pick up the students from their respective locality and drop them back after school and this has been proven as the safest means of transportation worldwide for school students.