New hope for Mahatma Gandhi’s schools in Bihar

By Imran Khan, IANS,

Patna : There is new hope for an important but forgotten part of Gandhian heritage. After decades of neglect, the 391 Buniyadi Vidyalayas (basic schools) that were set up in Bihar to fulfil Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of providing elementary education to every Indian child are set to be revived.

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The first Buniyadi Vidyalaya was established by the Mahatma himself in 1939 at Brindavan in Bihar’s West Champaran district.

But, since then, the “Mahatma ke school”, as they are popularly known in the state, have been struggling for survival. Major problems include shortage of funds and teachers.

In many cases, land meant for the schools are in illegal possession of others.

But all that may change soon.

An official in Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s office told IANS that Kumar has asked the officials concerned to come up with concrete plans to revive these schools within a year.

Last week, at an official function, Nitish Kumar had said he was shocked to know that that out of the 391 Buniyadi Vidyalayas in the state, hardly any was functional.

“I am sorry for it, but I will not tolerate their neglect,” he said.

He admitted that he had been advocating the idea to revive basic schools for the past six years, but it had failed to create any impact till date.

According to officials, Nitish Kumar has formed a committee consisting of three senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officials — the human resource development department’s Principal Secretary Anjani Kumar Singh and principal secretaries in the health and disaster management departments Amarjit Sinha and Vyasji, who would work on the revival plan.

State Human Resources Development Minister P.K. Sahi told IANS here that his department is working on resurrecting the schools.

“Now, we will do it as per the chief minister’s directives,” he said.

Sahi said the government has decided to improve the infrastructure of the Buniyadi Vidyalayas, about six of which were set up by the father of the nation himself.

The schools were started to impart basic education to boys and girls in rural areas. They were also meant to provide vocational training in spinning, carpentry, farming and weaving.

But successive state governments have allowed the institution to languish. Even the central government has not made any attempt to breathe life into them.

A few years ago, the Supreme Court took serious note of the plight of the basic schools in West Champaran district.

The court had then issued notice to the centre, the state government, the district administration of West Champaran and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to ensure proper functioning of the schools and preservation of the Gandhian heritage.

(Imran Khan can be contacted at [email protected])