Lacking in even the most basic facilities like drinking water, toilet and electricity, most of the government-aided schools in Patna cut a sorry picture

Outside the Government Middle School in the Salimpora Ahra colony in Patna, one can catch sight of little children playing together amid loitering animals in the little space they call their playground. A cow and her calf tied to the school wall and stray dogs sniffing around the mounds of garbage in every nook presents a sordid picture of the lack of hygiene.

Inside the school, one finds small class rooms overflowing with children — contrary to the guidelines of the Right to Education (RTE) Act regarding the basic infrastructure of schools across the country. The grim situation here is a replica of schools located elsewhere in the slum colonies of Patna. The Government Middle School located at the Dargah Road in Sulatanganj, for instance, is another example of unavailability of basic infrastructural facilities. From electricity to safe drinking water, sanitation to a quiet environment, teachers to administration — nothing seems to be in place here.

The unavailability of safe drinking water results in diseases like diarrhoea and cholera; poor hygiene conditions make it a breeding ground for mosquitoes, thus causing malaria and dengue cases among the students, forcing them to miss classes for long periods. There are only urinals available and for defecation students have to rush home. Once they leave school, they come back only after a long nap or playing with their friends back home.

Inefficient teachers, non-functional libraries and no extracurricular activities leave the children devoid of an overall development. The mid-day meal is available only for students in the primary section, contrary to the requirements of the national Mid Day Meal Program.

There are only six teachers for 355 students — violating the prescribed teacher-pupil ratio of 1:30 as per the RTE Act. The appointed teachers are again not properly trained. According to Sabra Khatoon, mother of two students at the school, “the quality of teachers and education is quite poor. Teachers do not come to school and if they come at all, the purpose is not the nurturing of the students but the formality of marking their attendance in the register.”

According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2012 recently released by Pratham, a non-government organisation, a large number of schools are yet to put in place the basic infrastructure prescribed under the RTE Act even as the March 31 deadline set for them is fast approaching. The report indicated that the trend of lack of teachers in schools continues in almost all the States. The prescribed teacher-pupil ratio has still not been implemented in more than half the schools (57.2 per cent) in 567 rural districts.

The situation is worse in Bihar where the percentage of schools fulfilling the ratio was a dismal 8.5 in 2012.

The school administrations, however, deny any lack of facility. “The school is providing the best studying environment to the students. The facilities like Mid Day Meals and money for uniform is available for them. There is no compromise on education,” said Nandu Rai, an assistant teacher of the Middle school in Salimpora Ahra. Mostly families which fall under the Below Poverty Line (BPL) send their children to these government-aided schools. The non-implementation of the schemes for the students defeats the parents’ hopes and gives rise to another set of problems like poor results, lack of interest, high dropout rates and child labour.

(Charkha Features)