“Where is the teacher? And why haven’t the floors been swept? Why is there no chalk and why is everything so dusty?”

New classrooms are scary and so is day one of college. Day one produces the new class joker, the heroine, the mischief-maker and of course, the kid that just can’t seem to get anything right. To add to your misery, there is the possibility that you might get picked on by your new teachers for things that you should or shouldn’t be doing.

However, what if all this were to happen to your teachers?

On Monday, Day One of the New Year at Delhi University Vice-Chancellor Dinesh Singh along with senior university officials decided to pay a surprise goodwill visit on the remote all-girls Bhagini Nivedita College, which made news same time last year when a student was run over by a truck on her way to the college.

“Hello there, why aren’t you in class?” said the V-C, brisk but smiling. “We don’t know which class we have, there is no time-table yet,” replied the girls who said afterwards that they did not know who he was but were impressed by him and his entourage.

The V-C frowned but did not say anything and moved on before being suddenly waylaid by a woman dressed in a sari. “Good morning sir, I am the principal, don’t go there, come and see our new buildings instead,” she said. Prof. Singh ignored her and walked into a classroom. The floor looked like it had not been swept in years and the classroom lacked a chalk, duster and among other things, a teacher.

“Where is the teacher? And why haven’t the floors been swept? Why is there no chalk and why is everything so dusty?” asked Prof. Singh of the principal who replied with a nervous smile: “Sir, we just started moving into our new buildings today”, “Why did you not move in yesterday so that everything was in place when college started today?” questioned Prof. Singh before moving onto the next classroom where Sanskrit class was in progress. “Only five children here?” asked Prof. Singh. In reply, a student got up. “I am in the wrong class room sir, can I leave?”

Prof. Singh and entourage moved into more classrooms, very few with teachers. They were followed by the principal and the students’ union into every room. “Sir, please come and see our computer labs,” gasped the principal, fighting to catch her breath. Prof. Singh obliged. The lab had about six girls seated around a table with one professor. “Good morning girls, what have you learnt today?” asked Prof. Singh in a friendly tone after introducing himself. The girls looked glumly at their teacher and did not reply.

“Do they ever get to sit in front of the computer? They say they are specialising in computer science but admit they have never seen the university’s website, do you even have internet here?” asked the V-C, almost biting out the words. “Err...that is the problem here, no internet. Come see our new buildings,” came the reply.

“Get all your teachers into the staff-room,” said Prof. Singh. The staff room had more members of the V-C entourage than staff. “Do you look at the clock and work here?” he asked. The clock was stuck at 10 o’ clock, although it was close to 1.p.m. Without waiting for a reply, Prof. Singh started to speak. He said he was thoroughly disappointed with the attitude of the staff, half of whom were absent on day one of the college. Another major issue was the lack of transport, especially in view of last year’s incident. Most of the students spoken to said they climbed government buses and walked two miles to the college but the principal insisted that she usually deployed a college bus to the station every 15 minutes. “There is only one bus in our parking lot now because our other bus driver has fallen sick,” she said.

Prof. Singh had some more words for the teachers. “So many of you have come to me with all sorts of problems related to increment, promotions and other issues with your immediate superiors but not one of you have come with any problems that may have been faced by your students.”

On the way out, students had some more complaints.

“I wrote the computational studies exam in my first year, the marks for which I never got because the university said they lost my answer sheets. Now, I am in third year and they say I will have to do the exam again,” said B.Sc. Physical Science student Sharmila. Other complaints varied from shortage of water to transport and lack of a canteen, all of which the V-C asked the principal to solve. “I will be back, sooner than you expect and want to see all these issues resolved.”

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