Meghalaya ranks way below the national average in imparting elementary education in the country, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2010. The national average of children in the 3-4 years age group in 'anganwadi' schools is 75.7 percent, whereas Meghalaya's average is way below at 46.7 percent, revealed the report, released on Thursday by Leader of Opposition Conrad K. Sangma. According to the report, the national average of children in the age group of 6-14 out of school is 3.5 percent and Meghalaya's average is more than double at 7.2 percent. Moreover, children between ages 3 and 6 years not attending any kind of pre-school is very high in Meghalaya and the percentage of such children in the state is increasing year after year since 1997. Amongst the seven districts of the state, Jaintia Hills fares the worst in imparting elementary education, the report stated. The report comes as no surprise since pre-school teachers, mostly in rural areas, are still getting a salary of Rs.1,800 despite many appeals to the government. This salary has remained unchanged for the past ten years, so many of these teachers juggle between several jobs to make ends meet. “Many of the elementary school teachers have outsourced their jobs to others. In return they get 50 percent of the salary and carry on other work,” the report said. “In such a scenario, how can the state expect to do well in imparting elementary education,” Sangma said. He also claimed that the central government's flagship programme – the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme – has also lured children away from the schools in the villages. “Many school children are not attending their classes and are taking up jobs under the MGNREGS. The state government must ensure that such instances do not take place,” Sangma said.
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