Kaithal (Haryana): Five classrooms for 450 students, fewer teachers than the sanctioned post, shortage of specialised teachers, no laboratory for science stream students and inadequate infrastructure are what one notices in government schools in Haryana. Local volunteers—in some cases—are teaching children in exchange for a meagre sum.
Take the example of Government Senior Secondary School at Balu village located in Kaithal Tehsil of Kaithal district. This largest school in the area has only 15 teachers against the sanctioned strength of 38 posts.
After matriculation, only students of arts streams can study here, as the government has stopped teaching subjects in the science stream. The government has scrapped science stream in 303 schools as a result of shortage of teachers and students.
Aware of the impact on their future, seven students studying here approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court in October 2017 over dilapidated building of the school and the shortage of teachers. Amarjeet, Abhishek, Saurabh, Ajay, Mandeep, through their counsel Pradeep Rapadia, filed a petition regarding the pitiable condition of their school.
They said in the petition that under Article 21 (a) of the Constitution, every citizen of the country has fundamental right to free and compulsory education; this right is being violated as a result of the inadequate number of teachers and lack of infrastructure.
The plea also said the condition of the school building has been in poor condition for many years. Apart from this, even after more than half of the academic session has passed, there is no teacher for compulsory subjects such as science and mathematics in the school.
The court was also told that the school does not have proper provision of drinking water for students and teachers. The students had earlier written to local authorities but when they did not lend ear to the complaint, the students had to knock the door of the court.
Taking cognisance of the matter, the High Court issued a notice to the Government of Haryana, asking it to file an affidavit to inform the court about vacant posts of teachers in government schools in the state. The court also sought to know the details about the provision of drinking water and toilets for boys and girls in all government-run schools across the state.
The court also issued notice to the district education officer of Kaithal and principal of the school in question and sought their response to the plea.
After the court intervened, the 14 shabby class rooms—which were dilapidated and abandoned— were demolished and five new rooms were constructed. The government spent Rs 20 lakh on the construction, which began in December 2017 and was completed last year. Teachers were appointed against the vacant posts in the school.
“The situation, no doubt, has improved after the students filed the petition, but the government has not filed an affidavit till date to tell the High Court about the vacant posts, arrangement of drinking water and toilets for boys and girls in state-run schools in the state,” said Advocate Rapadia, the counsel for the petitioners, while speaking to NewsClick.
However, after the old rooms were demolished and five new rooms instead of 14 were constructed, a new set of problems has came to the fore. A teacher posted in the school said, on the strict condition of anonymity, that even after the court’s intervention, the problem of lack of classrooms still continues.
“The total enrolment from grade 6 to 12, at present, stands at 450. The students have been divided in 11 sections. But we are still are unable to accommodate them in five rooms,” he said.
In addition, he continued, the post of principal, the seats of post graduate and trained graduate teachers of Hindi and English are still vacant in the ongoing academic session.
He went on to add that children from neighbouring villages also come to study to this school. Balu village itself has a population of over 18,000. Science is taught till grade 10. “After matriculation, students are left with two option. Either study humanities or take admission in the schools in the city. A large number of children have to go to the city. Children, whose parents cannot afford the daily travel expenses, are forced to study humanities in the village school,” he added.
The case of this shool cannot be seen in isolation. A large number of government schools across the state have shortage of teachers, inadequate number of classrooms, pathetic condition of the buildings, broken windows and doors, waterlogged campuses, etc.
Notably, Abhishek, a student of the school who is one of the petitioners, is now preparing for the IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) entrance examination. He had scored 96% marks in the board examination. He secured 35th rank in Super-100, which is a scheme of the state government to provide free coaching for IIT, JEE and NEET examinations to meritorious students who have passed the board examination from state-run schools with at least 80% marks. The scheme also offers boarding facilities to the selected students. To get into Super-100, students have to clear an examination. Abhishek’s father is a driver and mother, a home-maker.
Journalist and rights activist Sunil Ravish, who has reported the matter since the beginning, said, “The case of Balu shows how indifferent the Education Department of the Manohar Lal Khattar government is! Students like Abhishek would not have been selected in the Super-100, if they had not fought their own battle. Sadly, even after fighting such a long battle, there has been no significant change in the situation. Even now, there is dearth of teachers and space. Ironically, the Opposition parties are not making it an election issue.”
STATUS OF EDUCATION IN HARYANA — DATA AT A GLANCE
There has been a decline—as the figures suggest—in government spending on education since Khattar came to power. While the state was spending 17.3% of its total budget on education in 2010-11, it decreased to 15.4% in 2013-14 budget. It was increased to 16.9% in 2014-15. In the 2015-16 budget, it further came down to 12.3%. There has been a continuous decline in the state budget for education (13.7%, 13.4%, 13.2% and 13.0%) in 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 respectively. If we compare Haryana budget spending with other states, we find that in 2019-20 budget, Haryana government’s allocation is just 13% of state budget while others states like Delhi, Assam, Uttarakhand, Bihar,
Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have allocations higher than Haryana.
According to the latest figures of Pratham Education Foundation’s Annual Status of Education Report, students of different classes are sitting in one classroom in large number of schools in the state. The report states that grade II students of 41% of primary schools are sitting with the students of one or two different grades.
In 36% of government schools in the state, students of standard IV are sitting with the students of different grades. In the mixed class, upper primary schools are no different from primary schools. These figures indicate shortage of teachers in state-run schools in Haryana. It also proves that the school buildings have insufficient space to accommodate students.
According to Saksham Haryana Education Portal, government schools across the state have 1.49 lakh sanctioned posts for teachers. But 41,212 posts are lying vacant. Such a large number of vacant posts across the state is directly impacting children’s education in the state.
THE PROMISES BY POLITICAL PARTIES
Though education is not a major political issue in the state, which is going to polls on October 21, both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have made promises related to education in their manifestos.
The Congress has said in its manifesto or ‘Sankalp Patra’ that a university and a medical college will be set up in every district. A yearly stipend of Rs 12,000 will be given to the students of grade X and Rs 15,000 to the students of grade XII. Additionally, free wi-fi zone will be created in every government school and special campaign will be launched for recruitment of teachers. The government will open and run a free coaching centre in every village. Residential schools for girls will be opened in educationally backward areas, promises the manifesto.
The BJP, in its election document, which the saffron party has named as ‘Mhare Sapno Ka Haryana’ (Haryana of my dreams), has promised that it will provide ‘guarantee free’ loan to youths seeking higher, vocational education. The party has also promised to provide skill training with an outlay of Rs 500 crore to 25 lakh youths.
However, only time will tell as to how the political parties live up to their promises, but the reality of Haryana’s education is disturbing.
(Data inputs by Peeyush Sharma)
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