NABARANGPUR has scored an A-plus. The south Odisha district, one of India’s poorest, has recorded a pass percentage of 91.87 in the Odisha Board .
Class X results declared on May 2, standing fifth among the state’s 30 districts. That’s a jump of over nine percentage points since last year when the district scored 82.60 per cent and stood 18th in the state.
The results are a huge leap for a district that has had some of the most dismal indicators for education and is the focus of a year-long assignment by The Indian Express to track poverty and transformation.
According to Census 2011, literacy in the district is 46.43 per cent, way below the national figure of 74.04. Besides, 57.35 per cent of the population has never attended school.
The district also faces a crippling shortage of teachers. According to 2015-16 data provided by the District Education Office, Nabarangpur’s elementary schools are short by 985 teachers and secondary schools by 290 teachers.
“History has been created in Nabarangpur,” said District Education Officer Kulamani Nathsharma. “If you count the correspondence students and the ex-regular students (those who failed or couldn’t sit for the exam last year), Nabarangpur has a pass percentage of 90.73 per cent and we stand first in the state. Of the 12,281 students who sat for the Class 10 exams, close to 30 per cent have secured first division. Last year, 93 students scored above 80 per cent; this year, 153 students have scored that much. And we have five students who scored above 90 per cent, up from one last year,” he said.
Nathsharma attributed these “spectacular results” to “persistent monitoring, inspection and tracking of teachers’ attendance”. “There’s not a single child who hasn’t been enrolled in school. In January-February, before the exams, we hold remedial classes for children who need help — an hour each in the morning and evening. This year, we upgraded 14 upper primary schools to high schools and four of our 10 CBSE model schools will take in students this academic year,” he said.
However, there is still some catching up to do. “This is a poor district and there are some very remote villages that are cut off from the block or district headquarters. The teachers who get posted to these places report for duty, leave and don’t return. There must be some way of keeping teachers back or maybe getting local teachers,” said the principal of a school in Jharigam block who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
According to the District Information System for Education (DISE) data for 2014-15, Nabarangpur also has a high dropout rate of 24.23 per cent for Class 8, compared to 4.88 per cent for Odisha and 6.88 nationally.
“The tracking system under Right To Education (RTE) is very strong but that’s only until they clear Class 8. After that, girls either drop out to get married or because the high schools are far away from their homes,” said Radhanath Behera, a retired principal of Nabarangpur College, one of the only two degree colleges, both private, in the district headquarters.