Hundreds of girl students on Thursday virtually forced the Rajsamand district administration to promise more teachers in their schools after they went on a wildcat strike to highlight a gender bias plaguing the state’s education system.
Officially, BJP-ruled Rajasthan’s student-teacher ratio is better than the national average but activists say it is highly skewed in girls’ educational institutions in the highly patriarchal state.
The state’s senior secondary schools have 1 teacher against 21 students, wherreas the national average is 50 students per teacher, according to figures compiled in 2013-14.
Fed up by the deprivation and bias, students of three senior secondary schools in three villages — Bhil, Barar and Dewair – boycotted classes for the day and staged demonstrations after their morning assembly.
The students were also demanding that their schools be merged with the government-run Adarsh schools, which are model institutes being set up across the state to address the student-teacher ratio among other issues.
“There is no teacher to teach us even the basics of science. We have to resort to private tuitions which are very expensive. For 11 years, we have not had a principal. Is it a joke?” asked Kanchi (15), a 10th standard student of the school in Bhil, more than 300 km from capital Jaipur.
The students — who also carried placards — said there were just 4 teachers for 700 students and added that it was seriously affecting the school’s academic records. The school had a pass percentage of just 50% in the last matriculation examinations.
“Next year we have our board examinations and till now we haven’t had a single lecture on English or geography. How are we able to even score the pass marks? Many of our seniors were denied admissions in various universities due to low percentage,” said Kamla (16), a class 12th student of the school in Barar village which has just 3 teachers for 300 students.
The principal’s is also post lying vacant for the past eight years, students said.
At the Dewair School, principal Mot Singh Chauhan said he was forced to borrow teachers from nearby institutions to meet the shortage.
Chauhan, a Hindi teacher himself, said it was a sort of barter system where “sometimes they borrow our teachers and sometimes we ask theirs.”
Villagers of Bhil tehsil alleged that there was a huge disparity in facilities, quality of education and number of teachers between boys’ and girls’ schools.
“The boys’ schools have an average of 17-18 teachers whereas girls’ schools only have 3-4. I have four granddaughters and they ask me why my grandson gets better treatment in his school,” questioned Chaura Lal (65) of Dewair village.
The agitation was also mired in controversy after sub-divisional magistrate Narendra Jain, who asked police to forcibly stop the demonstration, allegedly threatened to rusticate and black list the students.
Jain, however, denied the charge. “My only concern is the girls should not fall sick in this heat. Their demands are justified but before launching this nuisance activity, they must have asked for my permission,” said Jain.
After a two-hour-long meeting with parents and civil activists, Jain and other education officers agreed to immediately provide temporary teachers for the vacant posts from the next day and continue them till permanent teachers are allotted.
Activist Nikhil Dey pointed out that the Right to Education Act has made provisions for student-teacher ratio of 30:1.
“Then how come we (have) managed to go to the impossible figure of 300:1?”he asked.