The first lesson students receive at the government elementary school in Mokampura is about colours.
Courtesy: Different-coloured mats spread in the school compound, with each colour signifying a different class.
Red is for Class 2, green for Class 3 and blue for Class 4. Not only the furniture is missing at this school established in 1972, its students have to suffer the vagaries of weather in absence of a roof on their heads and power supply to the school.
Teachers, too, have to overcome all these difficulties while performing their duty. For 300 students admitted to the school, there are eight teachers besides the headmaster, Ranjit Singh.
“These students are from underprivileged families, mostly of rag pickers, labourers and domestic helps. Unlike other children, they work before school hours, as they have to earn their living,” said Ranjit Singh.
Despite the shortcomings and challenges, the resolve of students and teachers has remained steadfast. “We might be working in a ‘building-less’ school, but our dedication towards our students has helped in increasing the enrolment. Also, in the past three years, three of our students have been admitted to Navodaya Vidyalayas,” says the headmaster.
Shelly and Neelam, who have been teaching at the school for years, said all their demands to the higher authorities have fallen on deaf ears. Still, the thought of leaving the school has never crossed their mind. “If we run away from this responsibility, then who will think about their (underprivileged students’) future?” they question.
The teachers drive satisfaction from the fact that the kids are getting educated and the number of girls attending the school is on the rise.
Dreaming big against all odds
It is because of these teachers’ hard work that students can dare to dream of a better future. Ajay Kumar, who studies in Class 3, wants to become an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer.
“I want to be a police officer and drive in a car with a light (beacon) on it,” he says. But even Ajay knows he has to achieve it against all the odds. “Kids like me cannot afford to study in private schools. I have friends going to good schools and they tell me about how they sit on a chair in a classroom with a fan protecting them from flies and heat. They also have a blackboard in every class, but I have never seen these things in my school,” says Ajay.
“Our children are bright and have big dreams like any other child. But the state government has failed to give them basic facilities they deserve. Even if we are uneducated and are washing utensils at other’s houses, we want our children to lead a better life,” says Mandeep Kaur, a domestic help whose child studies in the school.
Will get details about all schools: DC
Deputy commissioner Varun Roojam told HT: “These issues should have been brought to my notice by the district education department. Now that I have been informed about it, I will make sure the department provides me with details of problems being faced by all such schools.”
Roojam also asked headmasters of government schools to come forward and meet him with their problems. “The file with the list of schools and their problems will be sent to the state education department, and I am sure the issues will be resolved,” he said.