Pathetic state of government schools

A dilapidated classroom in Kadabur Government Higher Primary School, Chittapur taluk, Kalaburagi district. DH file photo

A group of students squat on the floor in a class. One teacher sits and guides these students on what ought to be done. Coming from various classes, each of them here is learning a different subject. This would remind one of a private tutorial. This, however, is a glimpse of a government primary school in the state. 

It is 12.30 pm on a weekday at T Peddanahalli, a village in Chikkaballapur district’s Shidlaghatta taluk. At the government primary school are seated 11 children, in groups of two or three. This is a building with three rooms. One for the students, another for Anganawadi kids, and the third room makes for the kitchen. The students’ chitter-chatter does not distract the sparrows that make their way through the broken windowpane into the classroom, playful, flying around the books that have been stacked in a corner. 

A teacher sits in one corner of the room, trying to silence one group of students, while others are indulged in a discussion. She picks up a book to assess a student’s notes and another student raises his hand to clarify a doubt. The student stands next to her awaiting her feedback as she is evaluating a Class IV student’s mathematics notes. Even before she completes it, a Class I student rushes to her asking for help with writing an alphabet in the four-lines notebook. 

As it is about time for lunch, this teacher has to coordinate with the cook. If students here ought to use the washroom, water has to be drawn out of a bore and the teacher stands there as children draw water out of the storage unit. 

Sarasvathamma, the lone teacher in this school, multitasks — from teaching students of various classes simultaneously to coordinating the government schemes. 

Such is the scene in several government schools in the state. “While I am teaching Class V students, I ask others to sit and practise what has been given to them in the notes. I ensure that each student gets the maximum possible attention,” adds Sarasvathamma.

She has been transferred to this school from a nearby village as another teacher who was working here previously got promoted. “I am hopeful that during the teacher transfer process, another teacher is sent here,” she says.

She is one of the many teachers in the state who executes several activities at a time. Even in high schools around Chikkaballapur, locals explain, there are instances of one person teaching multiple subjects.

“There are teachers in the district who also fetch vegetables for the school as they cannot trust the cook. They monitor the implementation of several other government schemes, teach that children are taught, and also coordinate with the government to ensure that the basic necessities of the school are fulfilled,” said a child rights activist, on condition of anonymity. Even those who are recruited as general teachers from Class I to Class III, under the Nali Kali programme teach higher primary classes whenever there is a shortage of staff.

Should this teacher take a day’s leave, she ought to inform the Education Department in advance to ensure that a teacher from a neighbouring village is posted here. Else, these students would have no teacher for the day. 

“I can do justice by teaching children under Nali Kali. I know as a matter of fact that the quality of education will suffer if children are not given subject teachers. I continue to teach them because I do not want them to drop out of school,” says another teacher in Chikkaballapur.

Satish, a member of the Child Rights Trust, who has been working here, says that there are several other single-teacher schools in the district. “The quality of education will suffer. This is a clear violation of child rights. The quality of education will also take a beating. How can a teacher who teaches language also handle mathematics and science?” he questions.

In Somanahalli in Chikkaballapur, the government primary school has been reopened after two years. The school was shut as there were not enough students. “There is a private school in less than a kilometre distance. This is a clear violation of the education act rules. This brings down the number of admissions into government schools and in such situations, government deputes a single teacher to the school,” reveals Satish.

He said that in the past, there have been instances where the admissions in government schools came down as private schools wooed parents by providing better education tools and assured them of door-to-door transport.

Poor infrastructure

Infrastructure suffers in schools across the state. Chikkaballapur is no exception. At A K Badavane, three classrooms remain shut as the roof of these structures has started to chip off making it dangerous for students to be seated inside. One can see a pack of cards and some emptied alcohol bottles scattered around in these rooms.

Shivanarayanappa, a member of the School Management and Development Committee, explains that the concerns raised by the committee have only fallen on deaf ears in the Education Department.

In another school in Bashettihalli,  Doddaballapura taluk, Chikkaballapur district, while one part of the building is in a shambles, the other half of the structure is occupied by students. One of the rooms in the building has completely collapsed following heavy rains. The other rooms lie right in the vicinity. “We have found snakes and insects in the debris here. We are concerned about the safety of students,” says a teacher.

A parent whose child previously studied at a single teacher school in the same taluk has shifted his child to Bashettihalli as there is a better strength here. “I stay about 5 km away from this place. I find it better to have my child study here with 30 other students and have multiple teachers teaching her. We walk half the distance every day and take local transport for the remaining distance,” says Rangappa.  

A host of problems

Across the state, the situation remains the same. A social worker from Sedam in Kalaburagi district, on condition of anonymity, explained that single-teacher schools is a major cause for the drop in admission rates in government schools.“We have been explaining to the state that recruitment must happen on time. Teacher transfers are also being delayed. Last year, it did not take place at all. Due to this, several posts are vacant,” he adds.

Anandraj Margadarshi, a child rights activist from Kalaburagi district, says that similar problems affect the primary education scene in Tunnuru at Chittapur as well. “When there is a single teacher, there is no one to monitor his or her presence. In several instances, the villages are bribed by the teachers not to complain against their absenteeism,” he adds.

Terming it a violation of Right to Education Act, he says, in such schools, the quality of education suffers. “Syllabus is not completed in many such single-teacher schools. Only for the record, children are in a higher class. Children don’t have basic language and Maths skills and are unable to comprehend even simple topics. Children don’t enjoy the process of learning and get demotivated. Eventually, parents take children to work in the agricultural fields or migrate. It contributes significantly to an increase in drop-out rates,” he adds. 

Margadarishi says that with teachers having to shoulder multiple responsibilities, at times when they are called for departmental meetings, stop-gap arrangements are made for that day while the new teacher is unable to do much as they are not in tune with the current happenings in the schools.

Also read: Consolidating small schools without compromising access

                 Are we addressing the right problems?

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