The tall claims of the Punjab government to bring about reforms in the education system and improve academic facilities, especially in government rural schools, have fallen flat as primary schools falling under the jurisdiction of zila parishad are facing acute shortage of teachers and in some areas even of students.
According to available information, out of 477 schools under Patiala zila parishad jurisdiction, at least five schools do not have a single student and have been closed down and over ten schools have only single digit strength. Moreover, 73 posts of teachers have also been lying vacant.
Though earlier Punjab education minister Sikander Singh Maluka had said that the state government had taken a decision to merge all those schools having less than 20 students with nearest schools. However, no such orders had been given to the schools running under zila parishads.
The lackadaisical attitude of the district administration also came to the fore as even after several presentations from villagers, the authorities have failed to provide sufficient staff in the schools.
As per sources, Patran block was the most affected area with shortage of teachers in the district.
When the district education officer (DEO) zila parishad Paramjit Kaur was contacted on the matter, she took refuge in the contention that teachers were not ready to take postings in rural areas even as the government has provided adequate facilities
On the schools running with lesser strength, she said, "People, who are well off and living closer to a city, prefer sending their children to private schools rather than government schools. Also, there are few places where the population is too less and hence the strength is lesser."
The primary school at Gaunspur near Kauli in Patiala has been functioning with a strength of only six students and one teacher over the last five years.
While on the one hand, there are teachers who are enjoying the benefit of teaching only handful students, on the other there are teachers deployed on deputation who have been burdened with the charge of multiple schools.
One of the zila parishad school teachers, seeking anonymity, said "One teacher has been given charge of two to three schools which is very taxing on him as it becomes very difficult for a single teacher to carry out with the proceedings in each school."
While admitting the shortage of staff in the rural district schools, secretary zila parishad Hardyal Chattha said, "Right now there is no plan of merging schools with lesser strength with nearest schools in order to use resources adequately. However, a recruitment drive would be carried out in February to fill vacant posts".