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Saturday, Aug 24, 2019

In this Delhi school, 4000 students, 4 shifts, no recess

According to officials at the directorate of education (DoE), this school is perhaps the only school in Delhi that works in four shifts—two in the morning, for girls, and two in the evening, for boys. The reason: One of the two school blocks, which had 10 rooms, is being rebuilt to create more space for its 3,850 students.

delhi Updated: Apr 08, 2019 07:38 IST
Fareeha Iftikhar
Fareeha Iftikhar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
According to officials at the directorate of education (DoE), this school is perhaps the only school in Delhi that works in four shifts.
According to officials at the directorate of education (DoE), this school is perhaps the only school in Delhi that works in four shifts. (Burhaan Kinu/HT File PHOTO)
         

It’s 3:20 pm on a hot April day. A group of 20 boys, their faces weary, has gathered around an ice-cream vendor outside the Government Senior Secondary school in north-west Delhi’s Kadipur village. No, they are not having an after-school chat. They have come to attend school as their classes start at 3.45pm—the fourth and the final shift of their school.

Wiping the sweat off his face with the sleeve of his white school shirt, 13-year-old Neeraj Kumar said he does not like to attend school at this hour. Most boys standing next to him nod their heads in agreement. “We wait for the whole day to come and attend school. We cannot plan our day. I hate coming for classes at this time,” said Kumar, a class 9 student.

According to officials at the directorate of education (DoE), this school is perhaps the only school in Delhi that works in four shifts—two in the morning, for girls, and two in the evening, for boys. The reason: One of the two school blocks, which had 10 rooms, is being rebuilt to create more space for its 3,850 students. So, since February last year, the school has had to maximize its 14 functional classrooms, corridors and even offices to accommodate 2,050 girls and 1,800 boys in shifts.

The shifts mean the management has had to rework the entire timetable, how the available space is utilised, and even how it conducts the fall-in before classes.

Girls enrolled in classes 6 to 8 attend school in the first shift (7am to 9.45am), those in classes 9 and 11 attend school between 10am and 12:30pm. Similarly, boys enrolled in classes 6 to 8 attend classes from 1pm to 3:30pm and those in classes 9 and 11 are accommodated in the last shift—3:45pm to 6:30pm.

For classes 10 and 12, the school is held in two shifts—girls in the morning (7am to 12:30pm) and boys in the evening (1pm to 6:30pm).

Students attend six periods of 25 minutes each in these shifts, RP Sinha, head of school (HoS), evening shift, said, adding, “We had 40-minute classes in normal shifts. We try to make the most of the time we have.”

Learning interrupted

Against the usual two shifts of five-and-a-half hours each, the school now has two-and-a-half-hour shifts, with teachers moving in and out of the 14 rooms every 25 minutes.

“We feel like we are running in a relay race all the time. It takes at least 5-6 minutes to go and ask students to open their books and mark their attendance. Actually, we only get 15-17 minutes for teaching, but we are trying to make the most of this short time that we get with students,” said a teacher, preferring anonymity.

The unusually short duration of classes, many students feel, has adversely affected classroom transaction, leading to a dip in “learning levels”.

Nisha, 15, who is in class 9, said students no longer get the time to take up queries with teachers during the class.

“It takes two to three days to complete one topic now. We have to stay back after the shift in case we need to ask (our teachers) something,” she said.

As a result, many students, most of whom are from economically weak families, are forced to take tuitions privately, something they can hardly afford. “But that is the only way I can make up for lost school hours,” said a 17-year-old class 11 student, not wishing to be named.

Some students also complain of not getting sports period. “This two-and-a-half hour shift is all work and no play,” rued Rinky, a class 7 student.

HoS, morning shift, Usha Rani Gilani reiterated the school is making the best use of the space it has. In this pursuit, the school has introduced several makeshift arrangements, such as turning corridors and office space into classrooms. “Our teachers go the extra mile to ensure students’ can be taught as much as is possible, despite all odds,” she said.

Getting creative

In the absence of any space to hold morning and evening assemblies, the school management installed a loudspeaker in the open area to play the national anthem at the beginning of every shift and students pay their respect from respective classrooms.

The efforts have earned the praise from Delhi ’s education minister, Manish Sisodia.

“I salute the conviction and commitment of the heads of school and teachers, who are working despite all odds to make sure that students get an education,” he said.

It must be noted that despite the shorter classes and difficulty in covering the syllabus, the school’s enrolment percentage has not dipped. In fact, on the day HT visited the school, admissions were on for class 6.

Beyond classrooms

Aside from teaching space, the school has other constraints as well. It does not have a playground and there are only four toilets in all, two for girls and two for boys.

Girl students said they avoid using the common facility. “Most of the time, there are queues outside the toilets; they stink all the time. I do not use the toilet if it is not an emergency,” said Dipali, a class 12 student.

On the day HT visited the school, a corner of the campus was decorated with flower garlands to celebrate the installation of a water purifier.

“A private company installed it under its CSR project. It’s such a relief,” Devendra Chaudhary, a teacher, said.

“Earlier, students would get water from home because, half the time, the normal water tap would not work, and even then, there was no purifier,” said Vikas Saini, a member of the school management committee.

Interestingly, the school has 16 functional CCTV cameras installed in the premises, the feed for which is telecast on a large TV screen installed in the HoS’ office.

“The many cameras have nothing to do with the current chaos in the school. A security guard committed suicide at the school campus last year. We installed all the cameras after that,” Chaudhary said.

Kadipur needs more

Education expert Shyama Chona said the situation needs immediate intervention. “Otherwise, it will adversely affect the students’ level of learning. They should be given education as per the RTE Act,” she said.

The Right to Education (RTE) Act mandates that for a batch of students in classes 6 to 8, school must complete 45 working hours per week, for which it needs to function 6 days a week for 6 hours and 10 minutes a day.

This school in Kadipur is the only government senior secondary school for students residing in four neighbouring villages—Kadipur, Kushak no-1 and 2, Ibrahimpur and Naglipur—and 15 adjoining unauthorised colonies. Officials said 80% students enrolled in this school come from the low-income families in the unauthorised colonies.

Saini said the school has been struggling for space ever since it was established in 1999. Before the construction of the new block started, the school accommodated all its students in just 24 rooms in two shifts—morning and evening.

“The residents have been demanding more government schools in the area for many years now,” he said, adding that the new block will have 20 classrooms and was supposed to be completed “within six months”.

Director of Delhi government’s education department Binay Bhushan assured things will get better once the new school block is ready. He said the “construction is expected to be completed in the next two months”.

Though the additional classrooms will bring the student-teacher ratio down to 60:1 from the existing 80:1, the RTE Act mandates a ratio of 30-40:1 from primary to senior classes.

Towards this end, Sisodia said, the government will soon construct a school hub—four new buildings on a separate piece of land in the area—to ease the pressure on the Government Senior Secondary School in Kadipur.

“The construction plan and design have all been approved, and a cost estimate is being prepared by the PWD. I am quite hopeful that this process will be over by the end of Election Commission’s model code of conduct, and we would be able to start constructing this hub very soon,” Sisodia said.

First Published: Apr 08, 2019 06:52 IST

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