Rahul bats for English to empower Dalit students

March 25th, 2008 - 10:15 pm ICT by admin  

By Fakir Balaji
B.R. Hills (Karnataka), March 25 (IANS) Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi Tuesday advocated compulsory teaching of English at schools to empower even Dalit students from rural and backward districts for better job prospects. In an hour-long interaction with Dalit youths here on the first day of his five-day whirlwind tour of Karnataka, Gandhi said education was fundamental to bridge the gap between haves and have-nots.

“I agree that learning English will give equal opportunity for our rural students, including Dalits, to compete with their counterparts in urban areas for jobs in the growing knowledge sector (IT and BT) and create equal opportunities,” Gandhi told a Dalit youth Manjunath.

Manjunath told Gandhi that though Babasaheb Ambedkar wanted the government to provide free education to Dalits for empowering them, millions of Dalit children remain deprived of it even 60 years after independence.

“The kind of education imparted to us (Dalits) is not enough. In today’s world, we should be taught in English so that we too can compete with others to secure jobs in IT and BT sectors. Without such an opportunity, Dalit students will continue to remain deprived of well-paid jobs,” Manjunath told Gandhi through a translator.

In response, Gandhi said the problem was the limited supply (scale) of education available for children across the country, especially in rural and backward areas.

“I think we need to focus on expanding educational institutions at higher as well as lower levels. There are two ways of doing it. To grow the pie and to see how it (pie) is divided or shared among all. I think the bigger you grow the pie, the better for all,” he asserted.

In this context, Gandhi lamented that education in tribal villages of Orissa was 25 years behind that of Karnataka, saying he discovered this during a recent visit to the eastern state.

“During my four-day visit to Orissa in the second week of this month, I had been to one of the tribal villages, which was quite repressive. In the village of 8,500 people, there was only one school for 250 children, that too up to the fifth standard. I learnt that only one from the village had graduated till date.

“In contrast, Karnataka is more advanced than Orissa as is evident from the greater number of tribal students from this tribal area going to college to graduate. What’s more, two of the tribal students went on to do research (PhD), including one in the US.

“The level of education in some states such as Orissa is simply not acceptable. The point is even if they (states like Orissa) start today, they are still 25 years behind some other states. Hence education should be the number one priority. Increasing the scale is the need of the hour to ensure education for all,” Gandhi asserted.

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