Like all school-going children, 13-year-old Atyaab Hussain of Quami School carries a bag to school. However, instead of books, this sixth grader carries a bottle of water in it.
Urdu schools in Delhi are battling a resource crunch. At the heart of the crisis is a pressing shortage of teachers and textbooks.
Almost 74 out of 80 books prescribed for Urdu schools are simply not available, says Firoz Bakht Ahmed, Urdu educationist and chairman of Friends for Education, a non-profit organisation.
“I managed to get 77 per cent without ever having read Political Science, History, Economics and Science textbooks,” says Ashiya Begum, last year’s topper from Hakim Ajmal Khan Girls’ School. “This school doesn’t even have a Maths teacher.”
The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) summoned Delhi education officials for failing to provide Urdu textbooks in the Capital’s schools despite the fact that the budget allocation for National Urdu Education Programme had increased from Rs 10 crore to Rs 13 crore in last year’s national budget.
Despite this acute shortage of facilities and infrastructure, academic performance in the schools is nothing short of a miracle.
Chashma Building Senior Secondary School located at a small street bend of Old Delhi last month announced 100 per cent result in this year’s Class XII examinations. Mehvish Qureshi of Jama Masjid School scored 85 per cent in humanities while Husham Raza of Anglo Arabic Senior Secondary School secured 83.40 per cent in science.
Urdu schools, aided and unaided, follow the CBSE curriculum like most public schools. Aided schools are funded to the tune of 95 per cent of their total operation costs.
Lost in translation
Textbooks are first translated into Hindi from English. “Agencies like the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) usually outsource Urdu translation. There is always a delay. Urdu textbooks are never released along with English and Hindi textbooks,” admitted Delhi government’s nodal officer for Urdu, SH Naqvi.
But he insisted the education department was fully aware of the problems and had made serious efforts to improve the quality of education.
Naqvi’s current assignment is to formulate a reservation policy that will make it mandatory for Urdu schools to recruit only Urdu-educated teachers.
The NCERT did not respond to a telephonic request for comments, but an official in the agency’s business development department, said, on condition of anonymity, that there was a shortage of “a few language textbooks”.
The NCERT is responsible for bringing out textbooks for Class 8-12. The State Textbook Bureau caters to rest of the classes.
The problem is not confined to shortage of textbooks. There aren’t enough teachers either. Most schools are coping with at least 10 to 20 requirements in subjects like Maths, English and Science.
The Qaumi School has only 16 teachers against 21 slots. And in many schools, Hindi teachers are making up for the shortage of Urdu teachers. “There is no teacher training institute for Urdu teachers in the country,” says Maqsud Ahmed, a senior teacher in the Anglo-Arabic School.
Bachelors of Education or BEd and the government-run District Institute of Education and Training programmes are in English and, therefore, Urdu teachers find it difficult to get through.
There is another dimension to the problem. In many of the city’s schools, a large chunk of the students are first-generation learners. “Since they come from underprivileged backgrounds, their parents are not aware of how competitive the environment is,” says Naqvi.
Most parents-teachers associations in Urdu schools have collapsed. “They exist in paper only,” says Naqvi, adding that parents, who play an important role in the child’s education, are, therefore, always out of the loop.