FOR THE last eight months, a dream has been taking shape, brick by brick, in what is arguably India’s poorest district. Three months more, and Odisha’s Nabarangpur — the focus of a year-long assignment by The Indian Express — will get its first government degree college.
The Government Model Degree College, being built at a cost of Rs 8.87 crore, will offer arts, commerce and science streams to students from in and around Nabarangpur. “We will take in 64 students in each of the streams in the first year and the same number in subsequent years,” said Odisha Higher Education Secretary G V V Sarma, adding that the project is being funded by the Centre and the state government in the ratio 65:35.
Spread over 10 acres, the ground and first floors of the building have come up and, according to the district administration, the college will be “up and running in a few months”. “We plan to start the session in July but the building might take some more time. Until then, the college will run out of a temporary campus at the nearby Skill Development Centre building,” said District Collector Rashmita Panda.
Nabarangpur MP Balabhadra Majhi of the BJD says the degree college was long overdue. “While there are enough schools in the district, the problem is at the level of 10+2 and degree colleges. Previously, there were very few students who cleared their Class X. But the numbers have been increasing every year and these students will need to get into colleges. Only 700 students in the district cleared Class X in 2000; that number went up to over 8,400 in 2015. But that year, more than 3,000 students couldn’t get admission because there weren’t enough seats. The degree college is an attempt to change that,” said Majhi.
At present, the district headquarters of Nabarangpur has two degree colleges, the co-educational Nabarangur College and the Nabarangpur Women’s College, neither of which is government-run. While the former is semi-aided, the latter is unaided and both face a crippling shortage of faculty and funds.
“Ours is a composite college (both junior college and degree) and we have 3,900 students on our rolls. We have around 40 teachers but that’s not enough. On an average, we need about four more lecturers in each department. Without teachers, how do we keep students engaged,” said Subhash Chandra Tripathi, principal of Nabarangpur College.
Students come to Nabarangpur College from villages in the district’s 10 blocks, but many simply find it easier to find seats in neighbouring districts such as Koraput, which has four government degree colleges.
Soumyaranjan Hota, 18, wishes Nabarangpur got its government degree college earlier. “A government college will definitely have better infrastructure. Here, we have no drinking water and the library has outdated books. But the biggest problem is of faculty shortage. I am from Dangrabhaja village in Nandahandi block. I travel 15 km by bus and then walk another 2 km from the town to get to college. But most of the time, there are no classes because there aren’t enough teachers. I don’t know if they are taking in third-year students at the new degree college this session. If they are, I’ll definitely apply,” said Hota, a second-year Arts student at Nabarangpur College.