There are legitimate fears among our elementary school teachers about the Gunotsav that comes into operation in Assam from today. A literal translation of the word gunotsav would be a celebration of talent or desirable qualities (in the present case, those that are present in the school-going children of Assam). The fears of the teachers stem from the fact that the elementary schools of Assam have about the most deplorable infrastructure. People who talk about one-room, one-teacher village schools should also take a closer look at the large number of rural schools that have to be run in the open air because they do not have even a single room. And people who realize the importance of elementary education to the very process of education will also appreciate how important it is for elementary schools to have the minimum required infrastructure to make the teaching-learning experience a fruitful and enjoyable one at this stage. What is rather alarming about the elementary education scerio in Assam is that most of the government-run elementary schools lack even the most basic infrastructure. We are not suggesting that computers constitute part of the essential infrastructure of elementary schools. But one must appreciate that the concept of the appropriate infrastructure for elementary schools has also undergone some change over the years. Not to speak of computers, only about 8.7 per cent of Assam’s elementary schools have even electricity! Only 58 per cent of our elementary schools have something called a library even though it may mean no more than a collection of a few books that children can borrow when they have the urge to read. A recent survey of elementary schools conducted by the State Education Department has revealed an acute shortage of infrastructure and facilities for elementary schools that seriously hampers the healthy development of scholastic and co-scholastic skills of students. It is unfortute that an awareness of the present state of our elementary schools that enrol students from Class I to VIII should fail to dawn on the authorities concerned. The kind of lip sympathy, devoid of any real commitment, that one discerns in the way elementary education is conducted in the State, reflects rather poorly on the authorities that are entrusted with the task of initiating the process of education in all new learners.
Fears of Gunotsav