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Bihar Removes Over 2 Million Missing Students from Schools

Massive disenrollment of these students comes after thorough inspection of schools across the state, which revealed their prolonged absence despite having been admitted.

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Flickr

Patna: In the midst of the Bihar government's highly publicised drive to recruit thousands of school teachers, more than 2 million students in government-run schools have had their names removed due to extended absences in the last three months. This move is part of the state education department's efforts to boost school attendance and identify consistently absent students. The massive disenrollment of these students comes after a thorough inspection of schools across the state, which revealed their prolonged absence despite having been admitted.

This situation sheds light on the state's educational system, infamous for past instances of widespread cheating in examinations. The crackdown on missing students by the education department has caused anxiety among the affected students and their parents, who had purportedly enrolled in government-run schools to benefit from various schemes under the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT). However, many of them were actually attending private schools. Additionally, thousands of fake students enrolled in government schools for Class 10 and Class 12 in pursuit of certificates to improve their job prospects.

The initiative to disenroll missing students from schools was initiated following the directive of Additional Chief Secretary (Education) KK Pathak, who suspected irregularities in attendance after inspecting several schools himself and sending teams of department officials to others across the state. Pathak has instructed strict monitoring of student attendance, including their presence in classrooms on a daily basis.

Previously, Pathak ordered the removal of names of students who did not attend school consistently for more than three days without notifying the school or responding to notices about their absence within a fortnight.

The number of absent students facing disenrollment is expected to increase. In a recent circular to all district education officers, Kanhaiya Prasad Shrivastav, the Director of Madhyamik Shiksha in the department, directed them to inspect all schools, identify missing students, and remove their names from enrollment registers.

Shrivastav stated that the names of 2,087,063 students from Class 1 to Class 12 have been struck due to prolonged absence without informing the authorities. Of these, 266,564 students from Class 9 to 12 have been removed from school due to extended absences. As a consequence, these students will not be permitted to take the Class 12th exams.

Department officials found that the highest number of missing students were discovered during school inspections in Muzaffarpur, Vaishali, East Champaran, and West Champaran districts. Out of 1,011,579 students enrolled in Muzaffarpur, the names of 100,286 students were removed. Similarly, out of 690,828 students in Vaishali, 104,189 students had their names removed. In West Champaran, 140,752 out of 1,176,978 enrolled students were removed due to extended absence.

The ongoing drive to remove missing students is expected to provide a more accurate count of enrolled students in schools. It will also help the government save public funds that have been going to fake students through the DBT.

Officials explained, "The education department's plans to improve school education, such as the teacher-student ratio, classroom availability, the Mid Day Meal scheme, free distribution of books, uniforms, bicycles, and other items, are based on student enrollment. The number of students determines fund allocation for implementation. However, if student enrollments are fake, there is a risk of leakage and corruption."

This is not the first instance of fake students being identified in schools. Over a decade ago, fake enrollments were exposed during the implementation of the health guarantee scheme for all students, and "Operation Register Clean" uncovered nearly 2 million missing students.

Manoj Kumar Singh, a retired government school teacher, highlighted that after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar came to power in November 2005, his government's primary focus was increasing school enrollment. The government launched the Sankalp program to ensure all children attended school, significantly increasing enrollment.

To fulfil its promises ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the Mahagathbandan government led by Chief Minister Kumar has been actively recruiting 170,000 school teachers. The recruitment process is underway through the Bihar Public Service Commission (BPSC). The BPSC has already published the results of the teacher recruitment exam, with the remaining results expected in the coming days. Chief Minister Kumar is set to hand out appointment letters to successful candidates on November 2.

Furthermore, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav recently announced plans to recruit over 100,000 more school teachers in the near future.

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