Students of various grades studying under a tree on the premises of their school, Fudilal National School, in Janakpurdham Sub-metoropolis in this picture taken on Sunday. Photo: Suresh Yadav/Republica
JANAKPURDHAM, Sept 11: Fudilal National School is the only public primary school in the entire Janakpurdham Sub – metropolis where mostly Muslim and Dalit children study.
Its infrastructure looks fairly well. It has sufficient number of classrooms constructed in a typical village style. However, children do not get to stay in and study in those rooms. A local contractor has been using it since long. Instead of desks and benches, the classroom space is filled with bricks, sand and iron rods belonging to the contractor. Students are forced to study under the open sky.
“We teach children by sitting under the tree as the contractor has been using the classroom for storing construction materials,” said a teacher Dinesh Chaudhari. He further said that in lack of teachers, the school is unable to operate separate glasses for all the grades. “Even if the classrooms were empty, we would still not have been able to teach students in their own classes. We don’t have sufficient teachers to run all individual classes so we merge grades and teach them by combining,” he added.
The school operates classes till the fifth grade but has only three teachers with it. In lack of sufficient teachers, students from various grades sit in one place and study outside the school building.
“The school has only three teachers with it, though it operates classes till the fifth grade. To run classes with three teachers for all the grades separately is not sufficient,” he said. “The school building has been provided in a lease to the contractor,” he informed.
Along with the primary classes, the school has runs a namesake nursery section. Nursery classes are supposed to provide even more care to the children and have well managed facilities. Younger children cannot brave scorching heat or bad weather. However, here no matter what the age of students they have no choice than to sit outside, be it rain, cold or storm.
“When the weather is challenging we face huge problem. Keeping the children safe becomes our biggest concern. If we consider that the weather is not good, we send them home,” Chaudhari further said.
Badri Mandal, office assistant at the school informed that not all classrooms in the building are on rent. Of the five rooms, the school uses two and the remaining three are leased, he informed.
“It is not due the lack of space that children are studying outside. It is due to the lack of subject teachers, “he claimed. “The principal rented out the classrooms because the rooms were seldom used,” he added.
Mandal refused to disclose the rent amount and efforts to contact the school’s Principal, Dilip Yadav did not materialize. Neither did he receive calls, nor was he available at the school. Mandal said that the principal might have gone have gone out due to some work and told us to wait. Republica team visited the school on Sunday and Monday but the principal was not available.
Another teacher at the school, Abdul Kayum also expressed ignorance about the rent rate. “I don’t know anything about it. The principal rented it without consulting us,” he said adding that it was wrong to rent out the classrooms to contractor. “This gives wrong message to students and their guardians. This should not have happened,” Kayum opined.
According to the school’s records, it has 275 students. However, a shopkeeper in front of the school claimed that the school might have around 75 students. Requesting anonymity, he accused the school’s management of gross negligence in operating the school. “Everyone here knows that the school has less than 100 students. You are saying that the school’s register claims to have 275 students. The school hardly has 75 students. So where are the rest of the students?” he questioned. “Children from Muslim and Dalit families are enrolled here. These children are from the vicinity. So I know that the number of students cannot be higher than that. You can yourself look the settlement around here!” he challenged.
The teachers however defended the data by claiming that all the children who have registered do not come to school and even claimed that it’s a trend in every government school.
“They enroll, but do not come to the school regularly. We also many such students who are like that. So there is mismatch between the number of students in the school and number of students actually enrolled,” he said. “But this is a reality in all government schools. Moreover, this is a school of Dalit and Muslim kids from poor family background,” he added.
Extreme poverty has taken a toll on children’ education and wellbeing, according to the one and only nursery teacher, Ragini Kumari. The poor management both at home and at school has affected kids’, she said.
“We have not been able to provide proper environment to them at school. At home, the poor children have even more problems. Poverty is the major problem of the children here,” she said.