Delhi

Nuh schools in need of lessons

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Staff shortage in government schools in Nuh — one of around hundred Aspirational Districts identified by NITI Aayog — often makes headlines, but a tour of the Punhana block reveals that the schools lack even basic amenities such as drinking water, toilets, power and boundary walls, with antisocial elements using the buildings for illegal activities after school hours

It was around noon on Thursday and some of the Class III and IV students at Government Middle School in Allahbass village here had already began to trickle out of the premises and walk back home in small groups. “He is hungry. He did not have anything in the morning,” said one of the students pointing towards his younger brother when confronted. Another student, accompanied by a friend, said that he was going back home to wear uniform.

Having noticed a car and a cameraman, a well-dressed man quickly walked to the entrance of the school and shouted at the chowkidar for allowing the students to step out despite repeated warnings to not do so. He identified himself as Ravinder Kumar Malik, the head of the school’s Middle Wing. “How can a commander fight without an army?,” Mr. Ravinder metaphorically pointed to the shortage of the staff.

Transferred to Nuh two months ago after being promoted as Elementary School Head Master, Mr. Ravinder said the situation in Nuh was in sharp contrast to his earlier posting in Rohtak. “I was posted in Sampla block. We had surplus staff there. Here there is acute shortage,” he said.

Ravinder is the only trained graduate teacher for around 60 students of the Middle Wing responsible for teaching them all subjects. A science teacher, he is though clueless about Sanskrit, Social Studies and Maths. The Primary Wing, with a strength of around 250, has three guest teachers and two regular teachers. One of them Shakir Hussain, a Booth Level Officer, is busy updating the voters’ list, the rest have gone to attend a five-day-long government training programme, “Nistha”. One of them occasionally helps the Middle Wing students with Maths though.

Thin attendance

Since the teachers were busy with training and other official work, the students too had presumably decided to stay back at their homes. The attendance was not even half the total strength. “The attendance is usually thin during the vaccination drives. The parents, mostly Muslims, fear the drive is aimed at making their children infertile as part of the conspiracy against the community and do not allow administration of vaccines. Since the drive is on now, students do not come to school. In fact, many students fled when they spotted your car mistaking you all for a vaccination team. Also, they do not come when the mid-day meal is not served. The turn up was low for almost 15 days last month since we ran out of ration,” said Oman, an NGO worker. She teaches drop outs and “never-been-to-school” students separately as part of the government’s initiative.

Staff crunch in government schools of Nuh — one of around hundred Aspirational Districts identified by NITI Aayog — often makes headlines, but a tour of the Punhana block revealed that the schools lacked even basic amenities such as drinking water, toilets, power and boundary walls with antisocial elements using the buildings for illegal activities after the school hours.

Erratic ration supply

The staff and the School Management Committee members complained of erratic supply of ration forcing the students to go without mid-day meal for months . The schools did not have sweepers and chowkidars and most of the students were without uniform.

Though none of the schools visited had near to adequate infrastructure to speak of, the Mamlika Government Primary School stood out as the saddest reflection of the state of affairs in the district. A broken boundary wall in place of an entry gate greets as one walks to this school in the middle of the village. A portion of the wall near the toilets remains unconstructed, making the premises vulnerable to trespassers, including strays.

Narender, the lone teacher present at the school, said that construction of the wall had started four months ago, but it could not be completed due to dispute over land. The locals have encroached upon a large portion of the school land and are now opposed to the wall being built.

Earlier, the locals would park their trucks, tractors and other vehicles inside the school premises, animals would roam around freely in the compound and trespassers would just walk through at their will. “Since there is no chowkidar, the building is virtually taken over by antisocials after the school hours. They sit around its compound, occupy the rooms, drink and play cards. The locks to the rooms are often found broken in the morning. Sometimes, the illegal occupants even relieve themselves inside the classrooms,” said Narender, who is a Junior Basic Training (JBT) teacher.

Since the school has no sweeper, it is for the staff and the students to clean the rooms and the compound everyday. The toilets were in shambles and weed had grown inside them, indicating that they have not been used for long. Shockingly, a gang of three young men was playing cards inside the school premises near the toilets.

The school does not have arrangement for drinking water. “The children go to their homes to drink water and relieve themselves during the school hours,” said Wasim Akram, a parent.

Staff crunch

Against the sanctioned strength of eleven teachers, including a Head Teacher, the school has only three guest teachers and an ad hoc teacher. The school, with a total strength of 217 students, does not have a regular teacher for almost two years now. “While two of the teachers have gone for “Nistha” training, one has been sent to a Middle School in the neighbouring village on deputation leaving me alone,” said Mr. Narender, sounding like a lone warrior.

As there is staff crunch, the students are taught in two groups — Class I-III forms one group and Class IV-V the other.

Posted at the school for more than three years, Mr. Narender, however, could not recall the last time the Parent-Teacher Meeting (PTM) was called.

Joharuddin, a parent, said that his son had been studying in the school for the last five years, but he remembered to have attended only one PTM in March last year. “We want to come for PTMs, but they are not held,” he rued.

Funds unutilised

Also a School Management Committee member, Joharuddin, an ex-serviceman, said the committee was a complete farce and its members had no say. He alleged that the committee had been hijacked by the Chairman, a politically influential person, and he did not listen to the members. The funds running into several thousand rupees meant for the beautification of the school remained unused since there was no regular staff member to claim it.

Interestingly, the school does not have a power connection, but a bill is generated and duly paid by the school authorities.

The students had to go without a mid-day meal for two months this year after the ration stock ran out in October. A mid-day meal staff member said that after the stock got over, it was not supplied for weeks together.

The Middle Wing of the Government Middle School in neighbouring Papda does not have a regular teacher since the school was upgraded twelve years ago. Two Junior Basic Training teachers, with the mandate to teach only primary classes, have been deputed to the Middle Wing, comprising Classes VI-VIII. Both are guest teachers, appointed on fixed wages.

“We had a Maths teacher for around a year sometime ago. But now only we two run the show,” said Satyanarayan Yadav, deputed at the wing since its inception.

But for the last few days, it is only him who has been managing the affairs as his colleague, Anil Kumar, also a BLO, is busy with the election-related work on updating the electoral rolls. Satyanarayan said the two were Social Studies teachers and could not teach Maths, Science, English and Sanskrit to the Middle Wing. “We are still doing our best,” he reassured.

None of the 147 students volunteered to even take out their English textbook when asked to. A few of them could, however, manage to read Hindi. Majority of them were clueless about Maths, Science and Sanskrit. Besides this, the school did not have drinking water arrangement.

School Management Committee Chairman, Arshad Hussain, said the committee members had met the Block Education Officer several times to apprise him of the shortage of staff, but nothing has been done. The supply of ration for mid-day meal in school was erratic. “The students get mid-day meal for five days a month and then go without food for 15 days at a stretch,” claimed Mr. Arshad.

He said that School Management Committee (SMC) had never met in last two years, though a monthly meeting is mandatory.

‘Under control of a few’

Local villager, Abid Hussain, who has been on SMC earlier, said the committees had turned to political bodies and controlled by influential people in the village because of large sum of funds involved. He recalled how the earlier SMC received ₹25 lakh fund, but only 20% was spent on the school and the rest was allegedly siphoned off.

Primary Wing Head Teacher Rajkumar said the school did not have a chowkidar and power. The wing had seven teachers for 300-odd students against the sanctioned strength of 13. For almost four months this year, the students were forced to go without mid-day meal since there was no supply of ration. He complained that the ration supplied was at times of substandard quality. The solar panels inside the school had been stolen by the villagers, who would play cards and drink inside the rooms after the school hours. “We need a chowkidar to keep guard of the building after the school hours,” said Rajkumar.

The teachers complained the parents were least bothered about the education of their wards and hardly 10-20% turned up for the PTMs despite reminders and repeated calls.

Hamara Adhikaar Morcha convener Mohammad Younis Alvi said that Nuh, around 70 km from the national Capital, featured in the Aspirational Districts list but still there was no improvement on the front of education and more than half the posts of teachers were vacant. He said it raised doubts about the intentions of the government. Mr. Alvi, a former municipal councillor, said his outfit would launch a campaign if the vacant posts were not filled.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ravinder, at Allahbass school, exclaimed that he could not sleep at night worried about the state of affairs of the school and was mulling voluntary retirement. Related to a Class-I officer, he said that he could get transfer back to his home town but decided to stay on for a “new experience”.

Wo Khante Hain Na Kuch Din to Gujaro Gujarat Mein, To Maine Socha Kuch Din to Gujaro Mewat Mein [They say come spend a few days in Gujarat, so I thought why not to spend a few days in Mewat],” he said with a laugh.

Principal Secretary, School Education, Mahavir Singh didn’t respond to repeated calls and text messages to seek his reaction on the matter.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 10:30:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/nuh-schools-in-need-of-lessons/article30234210.ece

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