There has been a decline in the number of students in primary schools of Gurdaspur district despite the Punjab government doing its best to attract children to these schools.
The students of primary schools get uniform, books and mid-day meal free besides a stipend of Rs. 50 per month. However, these schools bear a clear distinction between the haves and have-nots - as majority of the children come from poor families. Moreover, most of them belong to the Scheduled Castes and the labour class.
District education officer (primary) Didar Singh said: "At present, there are a total of 47,948 students, including 23,041 girls, in government primary schools of the district." However, he admitted that there had been a decline in the number of students this year as compared to the last year.
While visiting various government primary schools on Wednesday, a team of Hindustan Times found there were just one or two students from the General Category in majority of the schools and the rest belonged to the Scheduled Castes and the Other Backward Classes.
The government has launched a Parvesh Project to keep a track on the progress of the primary school students with an aim to impart quality education.
However, Veena Kumari, a teacher at Government Primary School, Mirpur, said there were instances where despite sincere efforts by teachers students failed to improve. She held their economic backwardness a major drawback and a reason behind their distraction from studies. Besides, she finds family quarrel also a setback to the education of such children.
Above all, prolong absence of such children from their schools makes teachers' task even more difficult. The teachers,who are dedicated to their profession, get frustrated by their frequent absence for a long period, says Veena.
Poor health of schools
Though most of the schools have requisite furnitures, they need further improvement. At Government Primary School, Mirpur, a pucca classroom had developed cracks in the walls and the roof a decade back and was still lying unused. Veena said the matter was brought to the notice of district education authorities and the state school education board time and again,but to no avail.
Meanwhile, the DEO claimed that the schools had sufficient teaching staff. He also claimed that the students were getting the stipend deposited in their respective bank accounts online. he said recently, he had disbursed a sum of Rs. 1 crore for the students' stipend.
On Wednesday, the attendance of students at primary schools near Gurdaspur was around 80%, while it was far less in schools in remote areas of the district.
Kanta Devi and Varinderjit Kaur, teachers at Government Primary School, Barnala, said only a few parents come to attend the parents-teachers meeting held every month.
Veena said the department sent a doctor once a month to the school, which was not sufficient. She pointed out that there were a few anaemic girl students in her school, who needed immediate medicalcare, as their parents couldn't afford the treatment.