The challenges in the role of a District Education Officer

I am a District Education Officer. I have seen happier days for sure. Life was so good, when I was 50. As Principal of the Inter College, everyone respected me.  I loved teaching Maths and was able to do so, two days a week.

Then all hell broke loose. There came a promotion and with that a movement into the much coveted DEO role. Everyone around me was telling me, ‘Aab to aap sahab ho gaye! Mithayi khilaiyae!

It is not that I did not want to be a DEO. Being a Head Teacher can get monotonous and boring. This is where all the action is. And after a distinguished service, I wanted to retire from a respectable post in the education department.

But with the DEO’s job comes a phone that rings all the time. And when I say, All the time, I mean, All the time.

Sometimes it is the Pradhan ji, demanding to know why the Transfer Request he had put in, for his neice’s husband’s uncle, has still not come through. Other days, it is simply someone from the Teacher Union.

‘Ho Jayega!’, I hear myself saying, most of the time, much against my own will. And sometimes the stupid telephone will ring, when I really want it to be silent, right there in the meeting with Madam Ji.

‘Kaise daant-tee hain woh, sabke samne!’

How I wish, I have the technical skills to not only use a cellphone smartly, but also put a laptop to good use. It is amazing that my teenager son is able to all this so easily, though he struggles with his maths.

Then there is the Collector. ‘Come Quickly! You need to be in the Fisheries department meeting’. ‘Oh! It must be my newly found expertise in Mid day meals, that qualifies me for this meeting’, I grumble to myself, as I haul myself to yet another not-needed not-useful meeting.

Guess how many files I handle every day? Only about 150 or so. Oh No! it is not the files that are the real bother. It is the legal cases.

If the Judge had to sign a hundred files every day, would he read each of them in full detail? And I can not send my assistant. The honourable court would be very offended with that. And now with the RTI coming along, people want to know more and more about things, that you did not even know, that you were supposed to know.

Wait a minute! I am the District Education Officer. E is for Education not for Enforcement. And here I am, in the middle of the enforcement game. The BEOs on one side and the Education department on the other side. Then there is the Zila Parishad. And then there are multiple projects, some of them funded by the World bank and many more by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. All I can do is to make sure that everybody who picks up the phone to call me, is equally unhappy. No wonder, friends say that in the DEO job, D is for Diabetes.

I am now 56 years old and now this old dog has to learn new tricks. The education system is changing and we want to not only include everybody but also improve the quality of what we do. I must know about so many different schemes and act. I must figure out what is especially important for our district and I must make sure that these are utilized well.  I wish I knew about this ‘Chakra Vyooh’while I was still the Head Teacher. Then I would never have jumped into it.

The other day, this NGO guy was telling all of us, ‘You must learn to make a good school visit’. With the fuel allowance that we have – and all the extra running around – the best we can do is to stop at a school along with the way.

The formula for the school visit is – Stop in the way. Check the registers. Sign on. Move on. The formula for a successful school visit is – Stop in the way. Check the registers. Threaten them. Instill some fear. Move on. That is the way it has always been.

And now they are saying, get into the academics. Next they will say, Go and Teach Maths! And by the way, that will not be such a bad thing at all. I think, those days, with the chalk in hand and students in front, were the best days of my life. Everyone respected me at that time. Today, I only seem to be at the receiving end.

Before I conclude, let me tell you about this training program that we all attended. By the way, don’t get the impression that we all attend a lot of trainings. Even when we were thrown into this new DEO job, there was no training. Of course from time to time, someone realizes that our wounds deserve some attention and we end up getting a band-aid.

Anyways, they told us in the program that do not forget, that you all are in the task of Nation Building. For this sacred task, you must motivate and encourage others.

I ask you, if your own cup is empty, how can you fill from it, for others?

But then I also think, I have lived a full life and am well settled. Now in these last years of my service, I can make a difference to all the schools that are there under me. There are 4 lakh children in my district. And for them, there are 3000 schools with 1200 teachers, right here, under me.

Maybe. Just maybe. I can do something about them.

Then of course I wake up and tell myself, ‘Where is the time for all this?’

Aap hi bataiyae, ‘Buddhe ki jaan lenge kya?