The conditions of government-run schools in Bihar is really sad and pathetic. Some of the scenes inside these schools are really frightening. Nearly 200 girl students were found sitting inside a single classroom. Eight girls fell unconscious when India TV correspondent Nitish Chandra visited the school in Mahnar of Vaishali district for an on-the-spot check. A day before, on Tuesday, angry girl students from this school, had pelted stones at the official vehicle of the local Block Education Officer, and the local SDO had to intervene to calm the students. The local SDO admitted that more students have been admitted compared to the capacity of school classrooms, and the girls, who did not find a place to sit inside the classroom, came out on the road to block traffic.
The girls described the horrible conditions inside the school in Mahnar. Students of different classes studying various subjects like Maths, Science, Home Science, History, Geography, Hindu and Urdu are asked to sit inside a single classroom, and the school has only one teacher, in Biology. To top it all, despite these pathetic conditions, the students have been told to ensure at least 75 per cent attendance to get an admit card for exams. The situation is the same in Jehanabad, Gopalganj, Hajipur and Aurangabad, where our correspondent visited some of the government-run schools.
Let me examine the conditions of these schools, one by one. In the Govt Girls Higher Secondary School in Mahnar, Vaishali, there is no drinking water or toilet, and all classes are taken inside a single room! The stoning incident was provoked by a recent government circular sent by K K Pathak, Additional Principal Secretary of Education, in which it was said that 75 per cent attendance is compulsory for sitting in the annual examination. Girl students who were not attending school, because of lack of proper facilities, were taking private tuitions, but after the circular was issued, they had to attend school. There was simply no place for them to sit. There were no teachers.
A classroom that can accommodate a maximum of 50 students, was packed with more than 200 girls. Six to seven girls were sitting at a single desk meant for three. Due to the heat and humidity, the girls were sweating and some of them collapsed. They were given an Electral solution. There were many girls standing outside the classroom. This school in Vaishali has enrolled 2,083 students, but there was no place for them to sit. Inside a single room, Class 9 students were being taught Maths, while Class 11 students were being taught Biology. Even the teachers admitted that the conditions were pathetic.
Classes were going on in the school corridors. In an Economics class for five girls, students pursuing History, Political Science and other subjects were also sitting. Education department officers rushed to the school after they came to know about India TV team’s visit, and it was decided to run the school in two shifts. When most of the girls objected, it was decided to temporarily suspend Class 9, and students of this class, divided into three sections, were sent on holiday. This led to the main issue of attendance. India TV team went to another government school in Desri, Vaishali district, where 580 middle-level students are enrolled. They were found sitting on jute bags brought from their homes since there was no desk or bench.
Plaster was peeling from the walls of the classroom, and there was no ceiling fan. Eighty km away from Vaishali, in government schools of Jehanabad district, the situation was more pathetic. At the Maharshi Patanjali Middle School in Jehanabad, there is one single classroom for students from Class One to Eighth. The school runs on two shifts. Students of Class 6 to 8 study in morning shift, while those of Class 1 to 5 study in the second shift. Most of the classes are held in the verandah. This school building was built in 1970, and most of its land has been forcibly grabbed by locals.
The teachers admitted that the local administration was not listening to their pleas for improving teaching conditions. Six km away from the district headquarters of Aurangabad, students walk through fields to reach their dilapidated school building. The floor of the classroom is badly broken and the walls are in pitiable condition. There are only three rooms, two teachers, no bench or desk, no drinking water and a toilet that remains locked. In a school in Gopalganj, the building is so dilapidated that its roof can collapse any time. Teachers take classes in the open, under a tree.
During monsoon, classes are cancelled when it rains. Only students of Class 6, 7 and 8 study inside the three classrooms, but there are no teachers for all subjects. Bihar ministers, both from JD(U) and RJD, refused to speak about the conditions of schools. A few days ago, JD(U) leader Lallan Singh was claiming that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has given a new lease of life to the ancient Nalanda University and Narendra Modi should be grateful to the Bihar CM. Lallan Singh claimed that Nitish Kumar’s government has done good work in the education sector. Nitish Kumar has been chief minister of Bihar for the last 18 years, and yet, there are no teachers, desks or classrooms for students.
Girls studying inside packed classrooms are falling unconscious due to heat and humidity. The conditions of schools pose a serious question for Nitish Kumar. Maybe in a few days from now, some ruling party leader may allege that the girls staged a protest at the behest of opposition parties. Some may also say that the girls are lying and some teachers are trying to defame the government. One should not be surprised if the police are asked to file FIRs against the girl students for obstructing government staff from performing duty, stoning an official’s car and injuring policemen. Already, an ASI Poonam Kumari was reported to be injured and admitted to the hospital.
The ground is being prepared to file a case against the school girls who were demanding basic facilities of education. A government that cannot make arrangements for girl students to sit in schools and then issue a circular on 75 per cent compulsory attendance, can go to any length. At a time when the slogan ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ is being popularized across India, when our women players are getting laurels in sports, our women pilots are flying IAF fighter planes, and our women scientists are sending Chandrayaan to the Moon, the visuals of girls coming out of schools and staging protests on roads demanding their basic right to education is shameful. Chief minister Nitish Kumar is unfazed. He is nowadays busy uniting opposition parties, with his eyes on next year’s general elections.
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