Here's a novel idea that seems to have clicked. At a time when new chief minister Yogi Adityanath and his team are trying to instill the virtue of punctuality in Uttar Pradesh's notoriously lax bureaucracy, a young civil servant is quietly playing his part.
Kumar Prashant - a 2010-batch IAS officer who got his first posting as the magistrate of Chandauli district a few months ago - has introduced the "attendance with selfie" plan as a disciplinary tool in schools.
"The attendance of students in government schools, especially in rural and remote outskirts, is an age-old problem and what further adds to the menace is the absence and disinterest of teachers," he told Mail Today.
"With penetration of mobiles, internet and social networking sites in the remotest parts of developing India, we thought of using it as a more innovative and constructive platform."
'ATTENDANCE WITH SELFIE'
The idea was simple: to use the combination of selfie and social media to make teachers responsible and answerable. "We made WhatsApp groups at four levels with each level answerable to the next and that's how things are slowly getting streamlined," Prashant explained.
So a teacher reaches his school on time, signs himself "present" in the register, takes attendance of students after which he snaps a selfie with the kids and posts it in the first WhatsApp group within 30 minutes.
There are three levels - Nyaya Panchayat Resource Centre (NPRC), block-level group and the district group.
"The NPRC collects details of schools under its jurisdiction and forwards them to the block. The block after collecting the selfies from NPRCs sends them to the district headquarters. A control room is formed at the regional information centre that keeps track on daily basis and a review is held every month," Prashant said.
Started in February this year in the Naugarh block that was once Naxal-dominated and is about 70 km from the district headquarters, the initiative is steadily gaining popularity.
"We plan to cover all primary and upper primary government schools. Network is hardly a problem. However, if there is a problem, the teacher can post the selfie when he finds a signal," the district magistrate said.
The Chandauli administration plans to hold an awareness and participation workshop on April 19-20. According to officials, students also approve of the idea and are now showing interest in coming to school.
"Education officials have also started visiting schools frequently. We tell students that people across the district as well as the country will praise them," said Amita Srivastava, district coordinator of girls' education.
At present, no punitive measures are in place, but plans are in the pipeline. "It is just the beginning, as due to elections, the initiative got stalled. However, in future, we will definitely take action against errant teachers and this may include deducting a day's salary or giving an adverse report," Prashant said.