Dec 1, 2012: (Prepared by Dr. Sekar )
After a sumptuous breakfast at the house of the VO officials in Seema, the team once again split into two, with one group going to the Seema Primary School, while the other proceeded to Jhalar village. I was in the first group and met with the head teacher of the school. Here too, I found the head teacher to have sincere intent and passion to do good for the children, but handicapped by shortage of staff. The teacher-student ratio hovered around 1:80+. Only some of the teachers could cover all subjects and there was a shortage of specialist teachers in science and math. The head teacher was happy to get one science teacher that very day. The story on parent-teacher meeting was very similar – parents showed no interest in these meetings, and did not provide any time for the meeting. The head teacher was also burdened with several other non-academic duties – such as coordinator for the mid-day meal scheme, writing of various routine reports and attending several meetings, also acting as the block level officer for the village, and so on. With all these distractions, he too had very limited time to spend with children in school. This story was similar to what we had heard in other schools. Dr. Mithilesh met with children and urged them to have dreams, study hard, and reach their potential.
From Seema, we cycled to Hasanpur village. We met with the teachers (there were 2 in number, and the total was 4, with the head teacher having gone to attend a meeting on the mid-day meal scheme and one teacher on leave). The total enrollment was about 400, with daily average attendance varying from between 80 to upto 200. The issues articulated were similar – parent-teacher meetings on a weekly basis did not happen, as parents did not give time and were not interested; while there were 8 grades, most of the time, the teachers just occupied the students due to paucity of teachers; mid-day meal scheme was not operational for a few days due to non-supply of rice; while teachers too are committed and interested in delivering quality education, lack of teacher resources (and in many cases, under- qualified resources hired as teachers) result in poor implementation of Samjhe-Seekhe guidelines.
From Hasanpur, we visited our last village in the cycle tour – Nahaub. We met with the deputy head teacher (as the head teacher was attending the mid-day meal scheme meeting). Here, for an enrollment of 408, and about 45-50% attendance, they had a total of 4 teachers. With head teacher having several other duties, effective teacher-student ratio hovered around 1:100. Many students were absent during harvesting season, as they were called by their parents to help in harvesting (when we were there, one girl asked permission to leave early as her mother had sent message asking her to join in the harvesting task). Without addressing the resource challenges, meeting the Samjhe-Seekhe objectives effectively is an uphill task for the teachers. We also spent time talking to students on their own life goals which education can help them achieve. I found that such talks had not happened with either teachers or with parents, and impressed on the need to have life goals early on, so that there is plenty of time to prepare and succeed. The students were very attentive during the discussions and seemed to understand the import of the address.
With this visit, we ended the cycle yatra with a lunch at the VO elders’ home in the village, and then
cycled to Nalanda for a visit to the ruins and terminating the cycle yatra.