Failing The Society

The government-run schools have been performing poorly over the years despite highly qualified teachers and a better teacher-student ratio leading to a decline in their student enrollments in Srinagar. Syed Asma reports.

A narrow winding lane leads to a single storey building, a large iron gate opens into few yards of the not-so-pleasant courtyard. A couple of small girls are playing in the garden and some older ones are talking to each other on the verandah. The Verandah is about 12 feet and a door on it leads to a room. It is the staff room where five teachers are sitting on chairs. This is one of the middle schools in Hawal zone in Srinagar city. The school has been established in 1983. It has three rooms one of which is used as a staff room.

There are 50 students on rolls of the school but hardly twelve were in the premises. “We usually have jam-packed classes but the (world cup) cricket match has affected our attendance,” says one of the teachers wishing not to be named.

The two classrooms cater to ten classes including nursery and Kindergarden.

However, this kind of infrastructure – two rooms and a blackboard – seems to be much better when compared to many other schools in the city which are operated from single rooms.

Many of the state-run schools, most of these opened under Sarva Shikha Abhiyan (SSA) scheme, are operated from single rooms. Almost all of them are rented ones. The SSA schools are upgraded as the students studying in them are promoted from one class to another.

“Eight years back, I was appointed as a Rahbar-e-Taleem (contractual teacher) in this school, it was then a primary school but as students pass to next class, the school is upgraded. It is now changing to a middle school soon,” a teacher in Rainawari Education Zone said. In the school there are three more teachers for the 30 students enrolled in this school. The school operates from a 10 feet by 12 feet room and accommodates nine classes. This 120 Square feet room is going to be a middle school soon.

The environment of these ‘one room schools’ is ideal for anything but studies. Usually, small groups of students facing four corners of the room and others sitting in the middle of the room with their teacher sitting in the centre. Hardly any space is left vacant in these single room schools.

On the one side when there are serious infrastructure problems in some of the schools, a skewed teacher student ratio is aggravating the problem in many others.

Prof N A Nadeem of the Department of Education says, “After sending some inspection teams to different areas, I came to know that a school in Hazratbal has 22 teachers and 12 students and the result (pass percentage) is zero.

Similarly, one of the schools in Eidgah constituency lack faculty and has seven students”.

Many schools in Hawal zone also have problems in the teacher student ratio.

A school in the same zone has 100-150 students and four teachers, another school has 12 students and eight teachers, said an official.

The rent for each ‘school’ is Rs 1000 per month and in many cases it has not been paid for months. “Government approached us for one more room because they wanted to increase the roll in the school but I am not willing because they have not cleared the previous balance (rent) yet,” says Abdul Ahad, owner of one of the rented buildings in Zone Hawal.

There are 481 government and 479 private schools including higher secondaries in Srinagar district, say officials in the statistical wing of the Chief Education Officer (CEO) Srinagar. Though the number of private and government schools is almost the same, only 30,525 students are enrolled in the government schools up to 10th class while 115,138 are enrolled in private schools.

The approximate teacher student ratio is 1:7 for government schools and 1:16 in private schools in District Srinagar, say officials.

Despite different incentives available in the government run schools, the enrollment in these schools is going down. “Government has different schemes like mid-day meals, free distribution of books, toys, affordable fees and well qualified teachers but still people are sending their wards to private schools. People here have mania of private schools that’s why we lack students in our classes,” says a primary school teacher.

The most important reason why people are not sending their wards to state run schools, parents say, is their result sheet. “If my children are learning something on a cost I am ready to pay that rather than letting them to waste their life in a government school and saving a few bucks,” says Khalid Ahmed, a parent whose children are studying in a private school, “I will prefer to keep my children at home rather than sending them to a government school. I do not need to explain, their result sheets are enough”.

According to the Inspection and Monitoring wing of Directorate of School Education Kashmir (DSEK), the result of tenth grade for the state-run schools in District Srinagar in the year 2008 was 48.69 percent and private schools was 75.62 percent. In 2009 it was approximately 42.6 percent for government schools as compared to the 66.8 percent of private schools.

And in 2010 the gazette did not show the school-wise result making it difficult to decipher the results of government schools. However, the authorities at JK Board of School Education (BOSE) term it a printing error. “We did not want it to be like this. The only change we had in this year’s result is the introduction of grading system and nothing else. It is just a printing error and the publisher must have been confused with the newly introduced grading system, that’s why it happened. It is no big deal,” says Noor Din, Joint Secretary BOSE.

For years government schools are having poor results despite so many funds spent on teachers and their trainings. Prof. Nadeem blames it on lack of supervision.

“The main reason for the poor performance of a teacher is lack of a monitoring and proper evaluation. Ideally, zonal education officers should inspect schools in their area but unfortunately they do not move an inch from their chairs. Our implementing agencies are weak that is why there is so much chaos around,” he said.

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