To bright young scholars, Orissa offers Rs.10 scholarship

By Byomakesh Biswal, IANS,

Bhubaneswar : How much does a bright primary school student get as scholarship in Orissa after beating thousands of competitors? A princely Rs.10 per month – the amount has remained unchanged for more than 20 years!

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The Orissa government offers Rs.10 to a student every month if he or she qualifies in a scholarship test in Class 3 in state-run schools.

“We too feel it is laughable that a meritorious student is offered just Rs.10. It has been going on for more than 20 years. It needs to be revised,” said Saudamini Dash, the deputy director of Elementary Education (Planning).

If a student is poor, he can get Rs.20 a month as “merit-cum-poverty scholarship”. One can avail oneself of the amount only after furnishing the income certificate of parents that is certified by a government officer not below the rank of tahsildar.

The scholarship test is tough to crack. Usually the topper of each school is sent for the test. There are more than 5,000 primary schools in the state.

Fifteen students from each educational district are offered scholarships under the general and merit-cum-poverty categories together.

In the general category, schools are free to send as many students as they want for the test.

“It is the discretion of the school headmaster whom to send for the test. He usually sends the best students of his school who have potential to crack the test. However, he can’t send more than two students in the ‘merit-cum-poverty’ category,” said another official in the state education department.

The state government offers 1,000 merit scholarships and 2,000 merit-cum-poverty scholarships in Class 3 in 75 educational districts in the state. If a student qualifies for the scholarship, he or she gets it for the next two years till Class 5 when the next scholarship test is held.

And the amount is provided to students “at one go after one or two years, hardly serving the purpose”.

“The scholarship hardly serves the purpose. I was elated when I got it. But with the paltry sum you can only buy a chocolate,” said Shrabani, a student from a Bhubaneswar school.

Similar is the case for those in Class 5. The merit scholarship is just Rs.20 and ‘merit-cum-poverty’ scholarship is just Rs.40. The government offers 1,000 scholarships in the merit category and 1,000 scholarships in the merit-cum-poverty category.

If one gets the scholarship in Class 5, it continues for another two years and in Class 7 another scholarship test is conducted. If one gets scholarship in Class 7, he gets the scholarship for three years.

“The government scholarship just makes a mockery of talent. Just Rs.10 and Rs.20 a month – and that is given after two to three years – hardly serves the purpose of encouraging talent. Students just take the test for the sake of it,” said Gouri Shankar Sahoo, a research scholar who had cleared all the three tests when in school.

In case of a tie, the paltry sum is divided between the two students!

“Suppose two students score the same marks, then we go for re-evaluation. Even after re-evaluation, if the tie remains, then we split the sum between the two students,” said an official of the education department.

Keeping in view the meagre sum, the state education department has given repeated reminders to the state government to revise the scholarship amount. The education department has proposed to revise the sum from Rs.10 to Rs.100 and from Rs.20 to Rs.200.

“We have been repeatedly reminding the state government to revise the scholarship amount. The last proposal was sent in June 2009. We have also proposed to revise the rate from Rs.40 to Rs.300 in Class 5. But the proposal is still pending,” said Saudamini Dash.

(Byomakesh Biswal can be contacted at [email protected])