Contrary to the claims of the state government of improving facilities at its academic institutions, things are far from pleasant at the government primary schools in the district.
A visit to the Government Primary School, Madhomajra village; Government Elementary School, Kheri Barna village; Government Primary School, Kaboolpur village and Government Primary School, Daroli, besides others, brought to fore the lackadaisical attitude of the education department.
From shortage of teachers, classrooms and benches to unavailability of safe drinking water, infrastructure and proper electricity connections, problems galore at these schools, affecting the primary education of the children.
Thanks to the anomalies, the number of students opting for government schools has been reducing very year, while about 250 students leave these schools in the district every year.
According to education department records, 66,739 students are enrolled in 953 schools in 13 education blocks of the district. But against the sanctioned 2,950 primary teacher posts, Patiala has minuscule 696 teachers posted in primary schools.
Worse, in blatant violation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, around 54 schools don’t have any government teacher, while 78 schools have only one teacher, and authorities are running these schools with the help of volunteer teachers or contractual Sarv Sikhya Abhiyan (SSA) staff.
While the RTE Act mandates a pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) of 30:1 to ensure that every child learns better in the classroom, the lone teachers are teaching all students of these classes.
As such, in many schools teachers qualified to teach a single subject are forced to teach all subjects, including English, Hindi, maths, social studies and science, in defiance of the RTE Act again, which provides for appointment of appropriately trained teachers for every subject.
This only leaves little to imagination, the state of affairs in the classrooms and how the students are fairing.
That’s not all. All students are made to huddle in a single classroom, while the teacher assigns work to each class consecutively.
Officials said the district education department has enrolled 470 volunteers and 66 Sarv Sikhya Abhiyan teachers to handle some pressure, but it had provided only some respite.
Adding to the woes of these schools, the education department on Wednesday promoted 43 primary teachers, who would now move to upper primary schools.
Schools on verge of closure
As many as 88 primary schools are on the verge of closure in the absence of teachers as well as students. There are 38 schools with less than 10 students enrolled, while 52 schools have below 20 students. Sources said the state government had decided to merge such schools.
Everyday a struggle
In absence of adequate benches in most schools, especially in the rural areas, students are forced to sit on the floor, even in the chilly weather, while in some schools, children of several classes are crammed in small rooms, as repair of bigger rooms is halted for want of funds. Also, mid-day meals are cooked in the open.
Despite education department’s survey finding water at several schools unsafe for consumption, most of the schools don’t have a water purifier, while other are using water purifiers donated by the local panchayats or NGOs.
Due to acute shortage of Class-4 employees, students are also made to do labour work.
Having failed to pay their electricity bills, the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited has disconnected the power connections at many schools that have resorted to “kundi” connections for power. As many as 176 schools have yet to clear their electricity bills of several months as of December 2015.
When contacted, district education officer (DEO), primary, Bahadur Singh said, “We have written to the state government several times for adequate staff, but to no avail. Water-purifiers will be installed and electricity bills will be cleared after receiving funds from the government.” He added that Patiala member of Parliament (MP) Dr Dharamvir Gandhi had sought a list of schools with dirty water problems to install new water purifiers in schools.