When Class 9 students of Our Lady of Fatima High School in Sewri rejoin school on June 15, their class will have more than a 100 students.
This year, the school's Class 9 batch has 237 students who will sit in two 400sqft classrooms meant to accommodate 45 students each.
The batch comprises 205 students who were promoted from Class 8 and 32, who are repeating Class 9.
School authorities said that the "overcrowded" classrooms are an outcome of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, which was enforced last April. The act mandates that schools cannot fail students till Class 8.
Thus there is no natural whittling down of students who were made to repeat a class. As a result, schools across the city are coping with a sudden surge in the number of students in Class 9. "Since the RTE Act does not allow us to hold back or fail students till Class 8, we have to accommodate a large number of students," said Father Donald D'souza, principal of the Sewri school.
Till last year, the government-aided school had three divisions till Class 4, two divisions up to Class 8 and a single division each in Class 9 and Class 10. However, this year they have added a division in Class 9 to accommodate the extra students.
Being the only English-medium school in the locality, it admits more than 200 students in kindergarten. "Only 60% of those reached Class 10 before the RTE Act was enforced. By Class 7, some would fail while others dropped out when they lost interest in academics," said Father D'souza.
"It is an ordeal for teachers to handle 70 students of different intellectual capacities in Class 9 and give them individual attention," said Kumbhar Vandana, principal, Maratha Mandir's Babasaheb Gawde English Medium School in Worli. The school has two divisions till Class 4 and one division each till Class 10.
Schools need permission from the government to add new divisions to their classes. The state government is yet to publish the rules under the RTE Act but officials said they were aware of the issue. "In unaided schools, the management incurs the cost of setting up additional classrooms or paying teachers. In aided schools, the education department will look into the matter based on this year's RTE notifications and the schools will have to make internal adjustments," said an education department official.
To cope with the problem, some schools have asked teachers to work overtime.
"Teachers find it difficult to explain a lesson in a 30 minute class to 95 students. We have set up special student-teacher squads where the academically brighter students and teachers clarify the doubts of a smaller group of students," said a principal of an aided school in Thane.