Manvir, who arrived 15 minutes ahead of the morning assembly at his Bandala village school, is among the 150 pupils of class 10 without a math teacher for the board exams. All four master-cadre posts for the subject are vacant in this senior secondary school that has also lost its science batch of Plus Two in the absence of lecturers.
School principal Jaswant Kaur shows the upcoming math park having geometrical shapes in concrete and the pillars ready for the formulae in the school compound that now awaits a math master for which her appeal to the education department twice last year is yet to be heard.
The pupils could hardly calculate the area of a circle or solve the simple sums in algebra, the basic steps in reaching the matriculate level in this Bandala senior secondary school that has now been left only with the humanities stream at the Plus Two level.
And the school is not a case in isolation, as the severe shortage of teachers has hit scores of schools mainly in Tarn Taran, Amritsar and Gurdaspur border districts, besides Sangrur and Mansa in the Malwa area.
Tarn Taran alone falls short of 1,269 master-cadre teachers of the total 2,210 sanctioned posts, including the contractual posts, under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in different subjects.
The district falls short of 209 of the total 339 math master cadre posts, besides 60% shortage of lecturers with 262 of the total 451 posts lying vacant for its Plus Two classes.
Beyond Bandala village, which is a gateway to Tarn Taran district, a Hindi teacher manages a middle school (classes 6 to 8) having 79 students in all at Narli village.
Two contractual teachers appointed as volunteers under the erstwhile education guarantee scheme (EGS) struggle with another middle school at Amishah, adjacent to the crowded government primary school, where the parents in the village prefer the surrounding private schools for the middle level (6 to 8) if their pocket allows.
But for a majority of rural children who have to depend only on government schools in this border belt, the chapters on Lucy Gray and the childhood of Mahatma Gandhi have little meaning in class 6, as one such student, Rachhpal Singh, at Dodde Sodhian middle school could hardly read a sentence in English.
A poor girl gets Rs. 1,200 to manage this teacher-less school after she attained a diploma in computer applications.
Khalra, the country's last village on the Indo-Pak border, too, had a gloomy picture where the girls' senior secondary school has no batch of science at Plus Two level for want of lecturers.
Tarn Taran district education officer (DEO) Paramjit Singh confirmed 21 teacher-less middle schools in the district. "The district has not produced many teachers and those coming from other districts get themselves transferred within days," the DEO said.
Social activist Col GS Sandhu, who runs a charitable school at Pahuwind in the area, said the state government was running away from its "responsibility, accountability and even transparency" in managing the school education system.
Col Sandhu, who has been instrumental in dragging a few regular teachers to the government schools of this border area, however, said the mushrooming of private schools was no alternative to the government school system as such a model deprived the poor children of school education at large.
Tomorrow: The crumbling heritage school at Dera Baba Nanak
Math masters: Tarn Taran 209, Sangrur 174, Amritsar 139, Mansa 101, Nawanshahr 100, Ludhiana 88, Gurdaspur 85, Hoshiarpur 84, Bathinda 74, Moga 70, Rupnagar 62, Ferozepur 56, Muktsar 53, Fatehgarh Sahib 53, Jalandhar 48, Fazilka 31, Kapurthala 27, SAS Nagar 14, Faridkot 13 and Pathankot 3.
Lecturers (for classes 11, 12): Jalandhar 386, Hoshiarpur 353, Tarn Taran 262, Moga 249, Gurdaspur 246, Sangrur 212, Mansa 203, Nawanshahr 195, Ludhiana 177, Kapurthala 152, Bathinda 151, Muktsar 151, Ferozepur 134, Barnala 104, Fazilka 97, Pathankot 87, Rupnagar 85, Amritsar 72, Patiala 70, Fatehgarh Sahib 51 and Faridkot 17.