"We are somehow managing," say primary school teachers in Uttar Pradesh

As per the government records, Uttar Pradesh has a deficit of more than 1.50 lakh primary school teachers. But the ones who are on payroll say they can only teach when freed from clerk hood of 25 odd compilations, including polio vaccinations and general census

Daya SagarDaya Sagar   28 Sep 2019 10:07 AM GMT

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We are somehow managing, say primary school teachers in Uttar Pradesh

"There is a single teacher. He teaches all the classes together so our course never finishes. Few subjects are totally left out. If only we had more teachers, we could have studied different subjects from them," said Radhika Singh, who lives in Kumheri village in Uttar Pradesh.

Radhika is a fourth standard student in the village primary school. Her school of a hundred students has a single teacher. So, all the classes run simultaneously due to which the students face several challenges. Class V students Premlata and Vaishali, sitting next to Radhika, are of the same opinion.

The biggest state of the country faces a massive teachers' shortage which is reported often in private and public records. As per the record of the Department of Basic Education, despite the recent recruitment of 41,556 teachers early this year, there is still a shortage of 1,43,926 teachers. An investigation by Gaon Connection revealed that in comparison to the urban areas, rural areas suffer more acutely from lack of teachers. As we move further from the cities to the villages so does the number of teachers per school diminishes — from five to four to further down three and two and even a single teacher at several places.

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Last year on Teachers' Day, chief minister Yogi Adityanath had admitted that the state's primary schools lack more than one lakh teachers and had promised to recruit 1,37,000 teachers within a year, but so far only 41,556 teachers could be recruited.

In 2018 even the then Human Resources Development Minister, Praksh Javdekar had admitted that Uttar Pradesh's state was the worst in the country in the matter of primary teachers.

In answer to a question in the Parliament he had informed that the country overall suffered from a lack of more than 9 lakh teachers whereas the percentage of vacant teaching post in Uttar Pradesh was 22.9. in response to an RTI in 2017, it was so informed that the state lacked more than 1.5 lakh primary teachers. Gonda's Durgesh Singh, who had put the RTI over teachers' vacancy, said: "There is already a dearth of teachers in the primary schools and on top of that the administration keeps the existing teachers loaded with clerical work. Due to this, quality of education is severely affected along with the future of the students and the nation."

Durgesh Pratap believes that the government must not saddle the teachers with the clerical job, if need be then it must hire a clerk per institution so that the academic activity does not suffer.

"What is to be done? We have to manage?"

"What is to be done sir, we have to manage somehow," said Mohammad Mustakeem, headmaster of Chamrauli Primary School, Unnao as he starts thumbing through a big fat register. He is preparing the record of attendance and school expenses. He is surrounded by students who need to get their notebooks checked.

Mustakeem teaches fifth grade along with preparing monthly records. When inquired he said: "It's the month end so the reports need to be sent to the department. We have few teachers in the school so I manage this with my teaching activity."

About 150 km from Chamrauli, Sitapur's Kanaila Primary School presents a similar scene. The school headmaster, Sushil Kumar Maurya was busy in preparing some report for the health department regarding distribution of iron pills among kids.

Showing the register Sushil said: "See, we have to work for other departments, as if we haven't enough work of our own."

Sushil heads a school of 138 students with only one teacher and three teachers' aides. The school has three rooms. "We have to manage," he said.

Due to the lack of rooms and teachers, Sushil has to conduct Classes I with Class II and Class IV with Class V. Only Class III has a separate room.

Pratham, an organization active in the field of education, published a report called Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) as per which in more than 63% schools of Uttar Pradesh students of different classes are made to sit with other classes during teaching.

How does a teacher teach two classes simultaneously? Sushil replied, "First, one class is taught a unit and given some exercise from that. Every class has a monitor appointed to manage it. After one class is busied, the teacher moves on to teaching other class students." As per Sushil for this combined-classes setup even the black board is divided into two halves.

ASER Report has constantly been raising concern about the system and quality of Uttar Pradesh's primary education. As per the report, about 50% of the fifth graders in Uttar Pradesh are unable to read out the chapters of Class II. The report shows that the state's primary students are quite backward even in simple addition and substraction. Reports of Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA) and Child Rights and You (CRY) also validate the above claims.

Several one-teacher schools

In 2018, the then Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javdekar had informed in answer to a query that the country has more than one lakh primary schools, which had a single teacher. In this list, Uttar Pradesh stood second after Madhya Pradesh with more than 17,000 single teacher primary schools.

The Mirzapur school, which recently got infamous due to its mid-day meal of salt-roti, is yet another school with a single regular teacher and a teachers' aide. So, when the teacher-headmistress doesn't turn up, the teachers' aide Shanti Devi shoulders the responsibility of teaching classes I to V, single-handedly.

Commenting upon the absence of the headmistress, teacher's aide Shanti Devi remarks, "Headmistress ma'am has not been coming to school for the past one year. She comes occasionally to mark her presence and leaves. When asked she says her home being very far from the school, she fears molestation."

At the same time, DL Yadav, single teacher and headmaster of Kummheri Primary School of Lalitpur in Bundelkhand rues his inability to impart quality education to the students as he has to manage all five classes together.

DL Yadav said: "If I say honestly, this is a shoddy arrangement. I send bright students of Class V to Classes I and II. Whereas I teach classes III, IV and V. Somehow I try to manage 100 students together."

DL Yadav says that many a times he has informed the authorities about the lack of teachers, but so far no new teacher has been recruited. Despite being declared an English medium school DL Yadav's school is far from having the mandatory six teachers for the category. When Gaon Connection inquired about the lack of teachers with the related districts' basic education officers, they too admitted the same and the fact that it is affecting the academic activities.

Shajehanpur's Basic Education Officer Rakesh Kumar informed Gaon Connection over phone, "In our district, only 6,500, as against the required 12,000 teachers, are posted thereby affecting the quality of education." He, however, added that all the teachers are trying their best to impart quality education within the limited resources.

In the investigation of Gaon Connection it was revealed that rural and remote areas were the worst affected by dearth of primary teachers whereas the schools near cities and highway had adequate teachers. For example, Lucknow's Chinhat Primary School, Uttardhauna has four teachers and one teachers' aide. The school is also visited by the pupil teachers from the neighbouring BEd and DElEd institutes for training purposes.

This school's headmistress Manju Srivastava said that the school is to get two more teachers soon and this is why the school never had to experience the teacher's crunch. Suhasini, headmistress of the primary school situated in the town area of Shamli, is of the similar opinion about her school which has eight teachers.

Wishing to remain anonymous, a teacher of Sant Kabir Nagar said: "This seems like a trend. Whereas the urban region school have adequate number of teachers, the further we move away towards rural area, decreases the number of teachers. My own school is run by two teachers and two teachers' aides though being English medium school it should at least have five teachers."

Regarding the issue of primary teachers' need Gaon Connection also approached state's Basic Education directore Sarvendra Vikram Bahadur. He told that the problem of teachers in the state is superceded by the problem of their irregular distribution across schools. However, he too admitted to the need of over a lakh teacher in the state.

Sarvendra Vikram informed, "Many schools in the district and urban regions have been overstaffed. Teachers desire a posting in or around cities. But, of late, the department has assumed stricture in the matter. The department is adopting the policy of adjustment and transfers so that the irregularities in the teachers' distribution can be smoothed out."

Basic Education Director also informed that presently the recruitment drive for 69,000 teachers is under way which will be accomplished soon. Although the candidates appearing in the same recruitment process have alleged that the government is not quite keen about the recruitment as it does not send the Advocate General to the court to defend its own mandate. It is noteworthy that the recruitment of the 69,000 teaching posts is languishing in the court and the candidates are in constant protest for justice.

The UP Primary Teachers' Association constantly endeavours to bring the focus of the government and the authorities towards teachers' shortage. Past Teachers Day (September 5, 2019) was observed as 'Shikshak Samman Bachao Diwas' (Save Teachers' Pride Day) by the association wherein it had demanded the government to provide a minimum of five teachers and a headmaster for every school, besides one clerk and one Class IV employee so that the teachers are freed of the paperwork and clerical job and can concentrate upon teaching.

Sanjay Singh, the regional head of Primary Teachers' Association, said: "Right to Education stipulates one teacher for 30 students, which is not practical. They talk not in terms of student-strength, but in terms of classes when it comes to teachers' recruitment."

He added: "It is practical that every class has a teacher so that every class' curriculum may run smoothly. Besides the primary school infrastructure like building, benches, electricity, blackboard and drinking water needs looking into to ensure quality education to the students."

Primary school students and teachers form the foundation of the future of nation and society. Sanjay Singh said: "Such poor provision of a facility so vital is weakening the very foundation of the nation."

(With inputs of Arvind Singh Parmar from Lalitpur, Ramji Mishra from Shajehanpur, Mohit Shukla from Sitapur)

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