In this election season, a small village in Haryana’s Rewari district is reminding the government of one of its key promises: that of educating women.
Girl students of classes 9 and 10 at a government-run secondary coeducational school in Gothra Tappa Dahina village hogged the media limelight in the summer of 2017, demanding that their institute be upgraded to Class 12.
The demand stemmed from their families’ concerns over their safety. Their families feared it was not safe for the girls to travel to the senior secondary school in Kanwali, about two kilometres from Gothra Tappa Dahina. The girls went on a strike, saying the travel will expose them to harassment.
Finally, the school was promised an upgrade in May 2017 after intervention by education minister Ram Bilas Sharma. But it seems the change has been only on paper.
Of the 86 students of the school, five girls study in Class 12 and six in Class 11. There are no boys in the senior secondary section. The school does not offer science and commerce streams.
Even the arts section has its own share of problems. It does not have a history teacher.
All teachers of the senior secondary section were hired in April. In all, there are 13 teachers including clerical staff in the entire school. Some of them joined just a month ago.
School authorities say none of their students dropped out of the education system though some enrolled in other institutes for better facilities.
But HT met Nikita Chauhan, a former student who dropped out after Class 10 exams in 2017, and said there were many like her.
When Hindustan Times visited the school on Saturday, just two Class 12 students could be seen attending classes. They were being taught by their Hindi teacher, Raja Bala.
Sheetal,19, and Kirti,17, who go by just one name, took part in the campaign to upgrade their school to the senior secondary level two years ago.
“We had help from other teachers (from the secondary level),’’ said Sheetal, “They taught us some of our subjects.’’
Pinky Raghav, the social studies teacher for junior classes, now doubles up as a political science teacher for students in classes 11 and 12.
The girls have now come up with a combination of five subjects — English, Hindi, political science, geography and physical education — for their board examination. And this choice of subjects is based entirely on the availability of teachers.
“Our parents didn’t want us going to a far away school,’’ said Kirti.
But neither the students nor their Hindi teacher voiced any dissatisfaction with the system.
“They have a policy in Haryana that you can hire a teacher only if you have a minimum number of students,” said Raja Bala.
The policy she talks about is in a grey area at the moment. Earlier, at least 10 students per subject were needed to hire a teacher. The BJP government has pegged that number at 30. The rules are, however, yet to be notified.
“I was posted here a month ago from Nehrugarh as soon as the transfer policy was cleared,’’ said Raja Bala.
While Sheetal and Kirti are battling all odds to clear their senior secondary board exam, Nikita Chauhan, who completed Class 10 in 2017, said she had to drop out of the education system the same year.
“I waited for days, but what was the point if there was no teacher?’’ she asked.
Unlike several others in her batch who went to a school in the next village of Kanwali, she wasn’t allowed to do so. Her widowed mother wasn’t comfortable with her travelling alone.
The district administration, however, said no parent had come up with any complaints in the past three months.
“The district education officer told me that only two students signed up for science and that’s why no science stream was offered,’’ Yeshandra Singh, the Rewari district magistrate, said.
When asked about the difficulties faced by students in the arts stream, Singh said he didn’t have such details about the school.
The local sarpanch, Suresh Chauhan, said he had given up after a long fight. “What can you do?” he said, “There is a problem in getting teachers. I really tried to help [the girls], but I couldn’t.’’
The Opposition is trying to hit out at Haryana’s education system under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rule, using instances like that of the Gothra Tappa Dahina school.
“They have done this to several schools…they promise to upgrade and nothing happens. Either science teachers or some other teachers are always missing. They make claims, but in the end it is all jumla (empty claims),” said Haryana Congress spokesperson Vaid Prakash Vidrohi.
“This is the state of beti bachao,’’ said women’s rights activist Jagmati Sangwan, apparently referring to the BJP-led central government’s “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (save the girl child, educate the girl child)” campaign.
“It’s a genuine problem of harassment that girls face and that’s why they drop out of schools,’’ he said.
Education minister Ram Bilas Sharma and his aides did not respond to HT’s queries.
A BJP leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the state’s efforts are focused on maximum utilisation of available resources instead of hiring teachers for a handful of students.
Back at the school, the only computer room can be seen locked. Reason? Erratic power supply.
Sheetal and Kirti sat in their class with their Hindi notes, hoping that they’ll pass their boards and get admission in a good college.
What would you like to do? “Get government jobs,” said Sheetal.
Oct 13, 2019 00:14 IST