A day after the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education (WBCHSE) — the state government-appointed body that controls and monitors schools in the state — was seen backing students who had failed of the board eligibility test at Rishi Aurobinda Balika Vidyapith at Santoshpur, the agitation virus spread rapidly on Wednesday, with students of at least four schools in Sinthee, Burdwan and Murshidabad taking the same route to bring the school authorities down to their knees.
Sensing that they might have opened a Pandora’s Box on Tuesday by asking the Santoshpur school to take another examination for all the 105 students, the WBCHSE authorities hurriedly called a press conference on Wednesday to denounce the gherao staged by 29 students and their parents at the school and said they were revising their stand while requesting the school to take steps deemed fit in the interests of students. “The WBCHSE would never ask any school to pass flunking students or conduct a reexamination. We request the school to take necessary action as it deems fit with regard to the students but taking into consideration their future,” said Muktinath Chattopadhyay, WBCHSE president.
Chattopadhyay made it clear that the council had no intention of interfering in the affairs of the school, and he emphasised their strong disapproval of the agitation by the students. “They did not behave like students,” said the council president.
The council revised its stand after education minister Bratya Basu warned of strict action against such agitations.
“We would not tolerate such behaviour by students to press their demands. They might have grievances about examinations or other issues, but those should be conveyed to the school authorities in a proper manner,” Basu told HT.
However, the damage was already done, as agitations and gherao started in different districts. The schools affected were Shekhalipur High School in Lalgola (Murshidabad), Kasturba Kanya Vidyapith in Sinthee (northern fringes of Kolkata), Krishnadebpur Balika Vidyalaya in Kalna (Burdwan), Bijoy Kumar High School in Gorabajar (Murshidabad) and Monimala Girls High School in Asansol.
In all these institutions, students who were agitating had failed to pass the examination held to screen candidates who would be sent for the 2013 secondary and high secondary examinations.
“The results of selection tests for both Madhyamik and HS candidates were published in our school on December 11. Everything was quiet and the students who failed accepted the results. But on Wednesday morning, when the council’s direction for re-examination at Santoshpur school appeared in newspapers, the candidates came to the school with the same demand,” said a teacher of the Lalgola school where students locked up the teachers inside the school building.
As in the Santoshpur school, parents of the flunking students pitched in with their wards with equal enthusiasm. Students at Shekhalipura High School locked up the teachers’ room for nine hours and protested with newspaper cuttings of the Santoshpur episode in hand. Teachers did not concede to the demands of students even after being locked up from 11am to 8pm.
Twenty-nine out of the 123 students who flunked the examination in Kasturba Kanya Vidyapith refused to see their examination copies or sit for re-examinations and demanded that they be allowed to pass at any cost. Similarly, 27 students of Krishnadebpur Balika Vidyalaya and 32 students of Bijoy Kumar High School gheraoed the principal and teachers complaining that their copies were not properly checked.
Soon after the Santoshpur episode on Monday, schools in the city and its outskirts witnessed similar agitations on Tuesday. Jagatpur Rukmini Vidyamandir in Behala, Annadasundari Hindu Balika Vidyapith in Baguihati and Rishi Aurobindo Vidyaniketan in Shyamnagar witnessed disturbances with flunking students putting forward similar demands and resorting to strong arm tactics.