DPO of Bihar’s Krishnaganj lands in trouble over gross irregularities in schools, ACS conducts surprise inspection | Education

Suraj Kumar Jha, the district programme officer (DPO) in Bihar’s Kishanganj was suspended by the state education department on Monday after the district development commissioner (DDC)-led inspection team detected gross irregularities in the implementation of various schemes of the government, with total disregard of the provisions laid down.

The DPO of Bihar’s Krishnaganj was suspended due to gross irregularities relating to the purchase of desks and benches, school renovation and construction of a pre-fab structure, setting up of ICT labs, and more. (HT Archive)

The irregularities in question relate to the purchase of desks and benches, school renovation and construction of a pre-fab structure, setting up of ICT labs, appointment of night guards, drinking water scheme, and selection of vendors for housekeeping and their payment.

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“Prime facie the charges are serious and the DPO has been found guilty. The programme coordinator Md Tufail, who was also involved in the financial irregularities, has already been dismissed from service,” said the notification from Subodh Kumar Choudhary, director, of administration at the Department of Education.

Notably, Bihar’s education department called for reports from the district magistrates last month on the ground realities in schools and the status of implementation of the government schemes after it received large-scale complaints about their functioning.

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“Even after so much inspection and monitoring, there should not have been so many complaints received at the command-and-control centres of the department. This points to discrepancies in the way inspection and monitoring was done. Therefore, the need for appraisal at the level of the district magistrate is being felt. It will not include the education department officials,” said the letter from Additional Chief Secretary S Siddharth to the district magistrates.

Siddharth had written that the complaints received from the citizens and stakeholders from across the state would be made available to the DMs for inspection through the nodal officers appointed by him. “You are requested to appoint one nodal officer in every district for an independent inquiry, and the reports would be submitted directly to the ACS,” he added.

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Poor attendance of students in the government schools of Bihar despite high enrolment and various initiatives and misutilisation of the government funds meant for infrastructure development has always been a major concern.

Surprise inspection at school reveals sad reality

On Monday, ACS S Siddharth, who is also principal secretary to the CM, got a firsthand experience of the situation after he travelled to the slums in the catchment area of a Patna school for a surprise inspection.

By the time the senior official could reach the primary school at the Adalatganj Slum in the Gardanibagh locality, barely two km distance from the corridors of power, he had to face myriad experiences about the stark reality in its periphery.

While the school was operational and teachers were present, the attendance of students was poor. Several students were absent.

Siddharth even spoke to a few students to make them understand the importance of education, However, the responses were not convincing.

Surprisingly, the school had also the gates to apparently “prevent students from escaping classes,” as per a teacher.

Speaking of classrooms, there were instances of a few students from two classes sitting together, while in another class, students were not wearing proper uniforms.

A teacher alleged that parents take money meant for the uniforms of their children but don’t buy it.”

Meanwhile, the volunteers ‘Tola Sevaks’ engaged in bringing children to schools explained how they put their best foot forward and tried convincing parents to send their wards to school, but to no avail.

If the situation in Patna is such, one can well imagine the condition of schools in the interiors, where facilities are fewer and the reasons for skipping classes are too many.

A few months ago, the department triggered a controversy by getting the names of over 20 lakh students removed from the school registers as they were found habitually absent for long periods during inspections by Siddharth’s predecessor KK Pathak. He also criticized the Bihar Education Project Council (BEPC) and the Bihar State Educational Infrastructure Development Corporation (BSEIDC) for carrying out infrastructure development in schools mindlessly.

“The problem of dropouts and absenteeism has several reasons ranging from socio-economic to falling trust in the system due to indifference of the stakeholders over a long period of time. It is the society that must take ownership of the schools where their children read. In education, it requires sustained effort for a long period of time to build trust and expect results. In education, there is no magic wand to improve things overnight, as all the stakeholders have to get involved. The initiative is good, as the officer went there with the right intent without any pomp and show and tried to instill confidence by talking to them in their language,” said former director of AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies DM Diwakar.

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