Some decades back, passing 10th class examinations in Kashmir was deemed a big achievement. Education system and standards have considerably improved since, particularly in private sector. But in many government schools across Kashmir, passing the exam is a huge challenge even today. HAMIDULLAH DAR visits some of these schools.
Tariq is apprehensive. A student of Government Girls High School Khadinyar (boys too study in the school now), he has appear in his class 10 examination this year. He shudders to visualise the scenes that his results could create. His voice caresses every syllable of the words lest it invites wrath of teachers.
Khadinyar is one of the 23 government high schools across the valley that showed zero percent result in 2008. The result gazette published by the Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education (BOSE) showed 172 such schools across Kashmir with less than 33 percent passing the exam. In Khadinyar, only one student could pass Urdu paper while in subjects like Mathematics, English and Science, none of the students achieved more than 20 percent marks.
Sitting in the foothills of Jambri hillock, GGHS, Khadinyar bears resemblance to the mound. While Jambri is barren, the school is witnessing a drought of matriculates for the last two years. “It really sears our heart to see the future of our students. There is dearth of subject experts which makes possibility of success very bleak. There are eight teachers and none of them is in master grade who could teach class 10,” Maqsood Ahmad, in-charge Headmaster of the school told Kashmir Life. “Last year, all the 17 students of the school failed in 10th class examination. If the staff shortage persists for this year, I believe the trend may continue.”
Maqsood’s words are repeated by Sheikh Ghulam Mohi-ud-din, Chief Education Officer Baramulla. “Government upgraded middle schools without creation of posts which left the staff with no alternative but to go for an internal arrangement. It adversely affects the quality of education and the results are for everybody to see,” says the CEO.
On its part, government punished five teachers by transferring them to other schools but their replacements were of the same experience – no master grade teacher among them. The only additional academic support to the school is being provided by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan team zone Baramulla.
Three more government schools in Baramulla district – Government Boys High School Singhpora Kalan, Government High School Gohan and Government Boys High School Ushkara – showed similar results in 2008 annual examinations for 10th grade.
“It is crassly apathetic that seven higher secondary schools in the district are headed by master grade teachers in absence of required staff. There are 850 vacancies, including 700 teachers and 150 master grade teachers in the district. SSRB appointed 615 but their formal orders are awaited which aggravates the morass,” says Sheikh Ghulam Mohiudin. There are 15 high schools and 7 higher secondary schools that have been upgraded but not provided with additional staff members.
But the administrative apathy is not limited to district Baramulla. Another High school that resembles the one at Khadinyar is Government Girls High School Wakura, Ganderbal. Housed in two structures, about one kilometre apart, this school is a brazen slur on the face of educational system in Kashmir. The structure housing classes 5th to 10th is a two storey building with six rooms constructed in a graveyard which has rendered it into a grotesque blend of superstition and studies. No walls separate the classrooms making a mess of the lessons.
When asked about the results of 10th class in 2008 examination, the staff members blush and look helplessly at each other. On insisting, Mohammad Ramzan Tantray, the in-charge headmaster says, “We are helpless as there is dearth of staff in the school. Some teachers are drawing salaries from this school while as they have been attached to other schools. The building is also defective and can not house an educational institution. Lessons of three teachers mix while teaching three classes simultaneously.”
Taking cue from headmaster, one of the female contractual teachers raises her gaze from the mound of notebooks heaped before her. “You see how hard we are working. From our side we are leaving no stone unturned, but unless parental cooperation supplements our efforts, the results will remain frozen at zero percent. Five or six hours in the school does not mean licence to success unless parents also come forth supplementing our efforts to ensure success of our students,” she says, not wishing her name to be revealed.
She finds a supporter in Jameela, a student who failed in 2008. “The teachers taught us what was expected of them but the paucity of staff and the echo in the building would leave us confused,” she says, her voice just above a whisper.
There is a stigma attached to the school. The teachers say that some two dozen students experienced delirious situations after “ghosts and spirits beheld them”. The school has fenced the strip that they claim is the territory of the ghosts and spirits in an attempt to ‘spare the students from falling prey to their effect’.
Asked about the results in 2007, one of the teachers boasts, “it was 50 percent”, while the in-charge headmaster tries to correct him by putting the results below 50 percent. The actual data, as per State Board of School Education, is zero percent.
The Government Higher Secondary School (GHHS) Wakura and Girls High School Wakura together produced two matriculates in last two sessions out of around 100 students that appeared in the examination. The teachers at GHSS bask in the infamous glory of producing two pass outs this year which saved blushes for them. They do not reveal 34 of their students sat in the examination in 2008.
“I failed as we had to repeat the same lessons every month. Teachers would change and every new teacher would repeat the lessons. We covered only 30 percent of the syllabus,” blurted Naseer Ahmad Sheikh, an unsuccessful candidate. There are four more schools in Ganderbal district which witnessed zero percent results.
The situation is worse for Srinagar. As against three in 2007, five high schools in the city produced zero percent results. Government Boys High Schools at Batapora, Amda Kadal, Gassi Mohalla and Chadihar Eidgah along with Girls High School Fateh Kadal nurtured no student who could pass 10th class examination in 2008. Although the school infrastructure in the capital city is better, the reasons for poor results have to be found elsewhere. “Government claims quality education but the results in its schools deflate the claims. Quality education is provided by private institutions which are beyond our reach. It looks as if poor students, like ours, are destined to be ruled while as private school students are destined to rule,” Abdul Rahman, a parent from Amda Kadal told Kashmir Life.
“The academic session was marred by the Amarnath land transfer row last year which took its toll on the results. The down town area of Srinagar city witnessed the worst results in government schools because they remained closed or academic hours were scuttled due to stone pelting,” an official of Directorate of School Education told Kashmir Life.
Besides 23 schools which showed zero percent result, there are 172 government schools that witnessed results below 33 percent. At a time when cost of private education has touched skies, the only option for poor children remains government schools. A decline in quality of education is of course a cause of worry for parents.
“Both of my children (son and daughter) failed in matric. We cannot afford private education for our wards and government schools have become fail-churners. Tell us where to send our children other than suggesting them to discontinue studies,” Hajira, a parent from Wakura, says through stifling sobs.
When Kashmir Life contacted Director School Education Kashmir, Shugufta Parveen, she denied that 23 government schools had shown zero percent results. “There are only 12 such schools as against 14 last year. We are on an improving tract. The result of government schools in matric was 62.45 percent in 2008. There may be shortage of staff in some schools which we are trying to overcome,” she said. “However, things will not change overnight.”