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The sum total of a genius

india Updated: Oct 25, 2006 03:42 IST
Ashok Das
Ashok Das
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When Praful Patel, vice-president, South Asia, World Bank, walked up to the blackboard in a government primary school in Ibrahimpally village in Rangareddy district and scribbled five rows of two digit figures for the students of Class IV to add up, he was not sure anyone could get it correct. He’d tried the same sum in several countries and always come away disappointed. He did not expect this little village school — run under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan scheme, which is partly funded by World Bank — to be any different.

But both Patel and World Bank managing director Graeme Wheeler were pleasantly surprised when Vijayalaxmi, a farmer’s daughter, made some quick calculations on her fingers and came up with the correct total. “I have been to schools in several countries but rarely have I seen the kind of confidence this simple girl showed,” a World Bank official told the district inspector of schools.

Vijayalaxmi literally saved the day for the primary education department and it wasn’t just a question of proving that the quality of education here is good. The team — here to see the progress of various social development schemes — came with the promise of $1 billion for more development projects. Therefore, it was important to make a good impression.

During the visit, the World Bank team interacted with self-help groups (SHGs) and discussed issues of livelihood, education and health. At the end of it, it was impressed by the social turnaround brought about by the illiterate women who make up the SHGs.

Begari Kalavathi, a landless labourer, proudly showed Wheeler her new pucca house, built with the Rs 1,85-lakh loan the SHG helped her get. She also has half an acre of farmland and two buffaloes, which makes her a rich woman, by village standards. But her biggest achievement, she said proudly, was being able to give her two sons a good education — one is pursuing a masters in science while the other is doing a B.Ed to become a teacher.

Buchamma, another woman, was asked if she had a message for Chief Minister Rajsekhar Reddy. Her response: “We are doing our bit for our children’s education. The government should do its bit. We want the government to introduce English medium as it will put our wards on par with those in the cities and increase their employability.”

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