Sangh schools score high in Orissa

via published on July 3, 2009

By Debabrata Mohanty at Indian Express

Bhubaneswar :  The High School Certificate examinations in Orissa have thrown up a surprise result—hundreds of Saraswati Shishu Vidya Mandirs (SVM) have performed exceptionally well with 44 of the top 102 students coming from the Sangh Parivar-run school network. As many as seven of the top 10 ranks are from SVMs.

While Bibek Bishal Mehena from Saraswati Vidya Mandir in Rourkela secured the top rank, Sanket Dash of Saraswati Shishu Vidya Mandir in Berhampur town and Ansuman Tripathy of Saraswati Vidya Mandir in Bolangir secured the second and third positions respectively in the results declared on Tuesday. Last year too, these RSS-run schools had done well with 15 of its students securing top-20 positions. Trends over the past six years have shown that SVMs generally do better than other schools in the state.

From humble beginnings in 1978, the march of these RSS-run schools is a success story that has not been highlighted much. Today, there are over 11,000 Acharyas and Gurumas (teachers) in 739 SVMs across the state who live a no-frills life to teach 1.8 lakh students from kindergarten to Class XII for a pittance.

While critics harp at the saffronisation of little minds by the Sangh Parivar, parents seem to be happy with the performance of the Saraswati Shishu Vidya Mandirs that dot the towns and villages of Orissa. Pitabas Mehena, father of this year’s topper, Bibek Bishal Mehena, credits his son’s success to the meticulous planning of the teachers and the perfect synergy between students, parents and teachers. “Though the teachers get lower salaries than their counterparts in government-run high schools, no one can beat them when it comes to dedication towards their students. For them it is a mission,” said Mehena, a pharmacist in a government hospital.

As part of its stringent evaluation system, each student has to appear in at least seven examinations in an academic year—five monthly, one half-yearly and an annual test. No wonder, of the 6,500-odd SVM students who wrote the exam this year, about 4,500 secured first division.

Educationists agree that the emotional commitment of the teachers to the students in these schools is what differentiates them from the rest. “In government schools, teachers teach just for the sake of it. In Shishu Mandirs, they attach a lot of ethical value to the education,” said Dharanidhar Nath, president of Board of Secondary Examination, the body that conducts the HSC examination.

Ironically, the RSS, known for its scorn for Christian missionaries, works on each students with the same zeal as missionary schools. And like the missionary schools, the SVMs also don’t depend on government grants. “We don’t get any monetary help from the government. The students pay fees ranging from Rs 50 to 200 a month as per their capability. But we do lay stress on character building and integrity,” said Gobinda Mohanty, Organisational Secretary of the Sikshya Vikas Samiti, the body that oversees the smooth running of these schools.

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