HT SPOTLIGHT Border schools: Headmaster lone teacher at Naushera Dhalla school
Fifty nine students, five subjects and one teacher. This is the fate of an Elementary School, a kilometre away from Pakistan border, at Naushehra Dhalla village in Gandiwind block of Tarn Taran district.punjab Updated: Jul 23, 2016 15:32 IST
Fifty nine students, five subjects and one teacher. This is the fate of an Elementary School, a kilometre away from Pakistan border, at Naushehra Dhalla village in Gandiwind block of Tarn Taran district.
The school, which mostly has students from drug or alcohol-affected families, has 32 boys, 27 girl students and only one teacher, Dharminder Singh, to teach them.
Entering the school to have a better future, it is a dejection for the students who are even deprived of basic facilities, including electricity, clean drinking water, furniture, good classrooms and toilets.
As some of the students have lost their fathers due to drug woes, they rely on their mothers, who slog hard to keep the kitchen fire ablaze and also support their studies.
“The students in this belt want to study and establish themselves as they have seen dark shades of life due to situations and circumstances. I have many students with single mother (fathers have died due to addiction) and they are raising them up with a hope that the elementary education will strengthen their foundation and help them be something in life, but the scenario in the border areas’ schools is quite sad. We, headmasters, on our own try our best to make things work,” says Dharminder.
During the visit, Dharminder was spotted taking a class in a corridor due to no electricity. Teaching is not the only element he looks after. He has to greet the visitors, look after mid-day meals and administrative jobs.
Dharminder also shared that annually Rs 7,500 grant is sent to the schools for maintenance, but infrastructures cannot be improved with such minimal amount.
Talking about the declining strength of students, he said, “In this entire belt, not only elementary schools, but also high schools have faced the decline because of several reasons. Parents are uneducated and aren’t backing their kids to study. They rather push them to work at minor age. But as headmasters, we try to convince them and get these kids to schools. Earlier, I just had 30 students and now after people have seen my commitment here, 30 more have taken admission.”
“If our families could afford our studies, we would have been in some private school. The state-run government schools do not even have basic facilities for us. The kids from poor background take admission here as we have no other choice,” said Gurpreet Singh.
Raman Kumar, a 40-year-old resident of the village, said, “Nothing has changed in all these years. In fact, we have seen it going worse. Initially, it was because of the negligence of the authorities that the border belts were not developed, but now it is because of drug and alcohol abuse, which is ruining families. Majority of people in the area are into drugs and because of it the young generation is suffering. The need of the hour is to curb drug peddling in the area and create awareness about education so that more students come forward to study. In turn, the state government should be able to provide basic facilities to the students. Educating kids and inculcating moral values in them is the need of the hour or else the future generation of Punjab will be doomed.”
Jaspal Singh, the district education officer (DEO) (elementary), Tarn Taran, said, “Like others, even these children deserve a good environment to study, but unfortunately they do not get it. I did constitute and supervised a team, which has presented me a clear picture of schools. The report has been submitted to the Punjab education department. But I believe in doing rather than waiting for a miracle. Therefore, with the help of DC Balwinder Singh Dhaliwal, we have taken steps to help these students. The district administrations can play a vital role, provided there is not much political interference in our working.”
“There are many ways (like money donated by chief guests on special functions can be rightly utilised) the administration can help the schools. Initiatives like head of departments at district level donating one-day salary for providing water coolers, mats, fans, furniture and other basic things can also make a lot of difference to the students’ lives.”