Assam: Lack Of Teachers, Poor Infrastructure Force Kids In 'Char' To Opt For Madrassas Over Formal Schools
Villagers in Darogar Alga char in Assam, now in news over tearing down of a madrasa, said they chose the religious seminaries over formal schooling as the quality of education in single-teacher lower primary institutions here was doubtful.
Villagers in Darogar Alga char in Assam, now in news over tearing down of a madrasa, said they chose the religious seminaries over formal schooling as the quality of education in single-teacher lower primary institutions here was doubtful. Lack of teachers and multi-tasking by educators, who also double up as mid-day meal providers, meant that actual hours spent teaching children were few, if any. Uzir Jamal, a 62-year-old resident of the village, said the poor infrastructure of the government-run schools compelled parents to transfer their children from these normal schools to the madrassa.
"All the five lower primary schools in the char have students from Classes 1 to 5, but there is only one teacher in each institution. Is it possible to impart quality education by a single teacher to five classes at the same time?" asked Mr Jamal. Habibur Rahman, the only teacher of the Darogar Alga Majar Char Lower Primary School, said, "It is very difficult to teach five classes simultaneously. Students in classes whom I do not teach are talkative and make noise. I cannot blame them as they are all children. You need to monitor them constantly." The school has 27 students studying in different classes from 1 to 5, he said.
The same is the experience of Soburuddin, a contractual teacher of the Darogar Alga Majar Char Lower Primary School No 2, which does not have any permanent faculty. "There are 75 students in my school and I am the only teacher. The five classes are in two houses. So, I keep running from one place to other. It is extremely stressful," he told PTI. Mr Soburuddin usually sits on the verandah of one of the two houses and instructs students from there. Notably, two students from Classes 1 and 3 had left Rahman's school and joined the madrassa. Also, two pupils of Classes 3 and 4 from Soburuddin's school stopped coming to the institution and started learning theology at the madrassa.
The lack of teachers has led to chaos during school hours at times even though the government has provided basic necessary infrastructure such as school houses, desks, benches, tables, chairs, free books and uniforms for students, the villagers said. Incidentally, the Darogar Alga madrassa and a house on its premises were demolished on September 6 by local residents over alleged "jihadi" links with two teachers of the seminary. Speaking to PTI while sitting under a Peepal tree on the school ground, Rahman said there were two sanctioned posts earlier, but one was abolished in 2006.
"There were never two permanent teachers at a time, even before 2006. At times, a contractual teacher is appointed. But when that teacher gets a permanent posting, he leaves the school," he said. Rahman has been involved with the school since its inception in 1987, when it was set up as a venture (established by the people of a locality) institute. It was provincialised by the government in 1991.
Provincialisation means taking over all liabilities of a non-government school, which was established with the sole purpose of imparting education to serve the society, for payment of salaries and other benefits to teachers. Asked how he is managing all the affairs of the school, Rahman said two cooks are appointed by the government to look after the mid-day meal programme. "However, I need to arrange for the ration and vegetables. Usually, I place orders to local shop owners who delivered essentials to the school or some villagers bring them from the other side of the char," the teacher said. Darogar Alga is one of the four villages in the char and has around 100 families.
The other three villages are Pakhiura, Beharphuli and Basantapur NC. Over 1,000 families live in the entire char, surrounded by Dudhnoi-Krishnai river in the south and Brahmaputra in the north. To reach the char, people use a machine-operated boat at Dakaidal in the south and cross the Dudhnoi-Krishnai river. Speaking on the difficulties he is facing, Mr Soburuddin said, "My situation is even worse than Rahman sir. I buy vegetables on my own and bring these on my cycle while crossing the river. Two cooks- Ayesha Khatun and Kochiran Nessa - prepare meals for students," he said.
Mr Soburuddin said he is a contractual teacher appointed through the 'Sarba Siksha Abhiyan' and there is no sanctioned permanent post for his school. The institute was an education guarantee scheme (EGS) centre earlier. "I joined in 2013 and since then, three contractual teachers were appointed but all of them left after getting permanent postings," he added. Both the teachers of the two schools said classes remain closed when they take emergency leaves. However, the district education department deploys temporary teachers from other schools if the school educators of the char go on pre-planned leaves.
Moreover, the two cooks of Darogar Alga Majar Char Lower Primary School -- Jamela Khatun and Rupa Khatun -- get Rs 1,500 per month as remuneration from the government for their work. "This amount is very less for us. Many protests have been organised for our remuneration hike but nothing has been done yet. Even we have not got the salary for the last 3-4 months," Jamela Khatun said. The other three schools in the char are Paschim Beharphuli LP School, Pub Pakhiura LP School and Pakhiura Beharphuli LP school, which are single-teacher institutions. The student strengths of these schools are 73, 12 and 56 respectively.
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