“I am the school-in-charge, the Punjabi teacher, the school peon, plus the clerk,” says a harried looking Ranbir Kaur. She has a PhD in Punjabi, from Punjabi University, Patiala.
Kaur has written to the district education officer about the vacancies at the school. “We bring it to their notice every month that we do not have a clerk, a peon and a chowkidar. That is about all we can do,” she says.
But in many other ways, the Government High School in Majat, 15 km from Mohali town, seems better off than many village government schools. It has a full complement of 11 teachers for its 130 students, or one for every 11 to 12 students. It has a science lab with a large workstation, a computer lab, an EduSat lab and a maths lab. The school is set on a spacious compound, with an opening to the primary school with its own grounds.
This year’s results have sent the school into shock. Of 29 students who wrote the Punjab State Education Board’s class X exams, only two have passed. Six have failed and 21 have “compartments”, or failed in two subjects. As many as 25 students failed in maths, 18 in social studies and 10 in English.
Mohali district itself, just a 15-minute drive from Chandigarh, was second from the bottom with a 42.85% pass rate. In a year when PSEB ended the practice of grace marks, 57 per cent passed X. And Majat Government School is illustrative of many of the challenges that face Punjab’s school education today.
Though they held a monthly internal test, clearly teachers had rested their hopes on grace marks, and were also implementing the practice in the test. One teacher said they tried to ensure there were few failures, even if they had to give “aik aik, do do mark pass ke liye”. As a result, no red flags went up.
“Students get marks out of 30 in their final results for performance in various school activities, including monthly tests and sports,” the teacher added. This year, many of the students scored 21 to 28.
Pargat Singh, one of the two who passed, had failed the previous year. This year, he got 53 per cent. “I focused on self-study rather than just depend on teachers,” he says.
Jagjot Singh, the school topper with 65.67 per cent, says he too focused on studying at home: “I studied at least four hours daily.”
Among the new batch of 25 class X students, there is a sense of doom. They are “waiting” for the maths teacher although “she has not come today”, they say. “She is absent on many days,” say some of them together. “She has taught a lot, but I have not understood anything,” says one boy, Gagandeep.
The girls are more assertive. “On days our maths teacher comes to school, she gives the guidebook to one of us who writes some sums on the board for homework. We have to copy those but we don’t understand what we are copying,” says Reena Rani.
When The Indian Express contacted Seema Sood, the maths teacher, she declined to comment. Kaur, the school-in charge, acknowledges the teacher’s attendance is erratic. In Punjabi, which Kaur teaches, there was only one failure, she points out. “There are many sincere teachers. Even on the day of the board exam, I asked all the students to come and took a revision class before accompanying them to the centre,” Rajbir said.
Pushpinder Kaur, the science teacher, mentions that only five of her students flunked. “I take overtime classes for classes IX and X students,” she says.
Social studies teacher Paramjit Kaur blames the students. “Sometimes I have to visit students; homes in the morning to bring them to school. Is it our duty? We are here to teach, then at the end people blame us.”
In the new class X, English teacher Manpreet Kaur asks students to open their books to the section on tenses. Only 10 of them have books. Few can identify all three tenses. “We work hard, the problem is that the students are not regular. If the majority do not even bring their books, what can I do?” the teacher says.
For their part, parents and students point to a problem among the teachers. Of the 11 teachers, 10 are women. One of them has complained to the police against the male physical education teacher and the local SHO has arrived. All the women teachers have made it plain they dislike their male colleague.
In the science lab, sarpanchs and other elders from four villages, part of the school management committee, have assembled. “All the teachers should be transferred. If the education department does not do this, we are going to put a lock on this school after the vacations. There is so much politics here, the teachers don’t have time to teach our children,” says Hakam Singh, vice-chairman of the committee, whose son has failed.
“These teachers are not interested,” says Jarnal Singh, sarpanch of Dhadak Kalan. “What is the point of this beautiful school if parents have to pay Rs 400 per subject for tuition?”