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A recent NYT article highlighted how farmers in India who commit suicide leave a great deal of financial burden on their families. The article blames the market reforms of 1991 for the current situation of farmers. Indeed, multi-national corporations like Monsanto have found themselves in the cross-hairs of the debate over to what extent GM crops result in farmer indebtedness. My post is actually not meant to cover that in great detail here, although I do want to write about that in the future.

What struck me about the NYT article, other than the brutally insensitive way the widow of a farmer who committed suicide was treated (like being called a whore, being blackmailed into paying debt immediately after becoming widowed), was the suggestion by a local official that the deceased farmer’s family ‘overspent on their children’s education’ by sending them to private schools. 

Now, the quality of government schools in India is pathetic. Check out this video to see for yourself 

So to suggest that the poor should send their children to incompetent government schools is like telling a person to go to Bernie Madoff to learn how  to make secure investments for themselves. It is of no value to send children to schools that offer poor quality of education. Granted, all government schools do not have such low standards, but without a doubt, private schools do offer better education.

The other fact is that private education in India is really not that expensive as compared to the West, where schools can cost thousands of dollars a month in tuition. In India, we’re talking more like $2/month for some private schools. In fact, growing numbers of India’s poor are sending their kids to private schools. So to suggest that these farmers are overspending on their children’s education is outright ignorance. 

Education is the only way to get these people out of poverty. Either the government needs to improve the quality of public education or they should think about partnering with private schools. In any case, no one should have to feel guilty about spending on their children’s education, especially not the poor.