An empty field that, official records show, is an inter-college in its third year of affiliation; a closed godown; a set of asbestos-roofed rooms without desks, benches, teachers — or students. And then, at least four schools that exist on paper but were nowhere to be found on the ground.
These are the results of an investigation by The Indian Express into the corrupt examination grading system in Bihar that flourished right under the JD(U)-RJD government’s nose. And which captured national attention after startling — and often poignant — visuals of Class XII toppers struggling to answer basic questions.
Twenty-four alleged accused in the “toppers scam” have been arrested, including former Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB) chairman Lalkeshwar Prasad Singh, under whose two-year tenure 196 plus-two and intermediate institutions running plus-two courses were granted affiliation, and local officials who allegedly substituted answer sheets to help students get better marks.
Also in jail is Amit Kumar alias Bachha Rai, the alleged kingpin of the scam and owner of Vishun Rai College in Vaishali, which produced three toppers among the 13 this year, all of whose results were later cancelled.
Then there’s the minor arts topper from Vishun Rai College, now in a remand home and whose face was projected as the face of the scam after she mis-pronounced political science as “prodigal science” on camera.
But as The Indian Express found travelling across eight districts to inspect at least 25 schools, the arts topper and hundreds of students like her are as much victims as they are beneficiaries of a system hijacked by government functionaries.
So much so, that even institutions in Nalanda and Saran, the political bastions of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his main ally RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav were found to have fallen far short of basic affiliation criteria (see box).
The Indian Express visited schools in the backyards of the two men who rule Bihar, and here is what it found:
Empty land, some bricks
Binda Dharohar Uchcha Madhyamik Vidyalaya, Panchbhindi, Garkha
# Owned by Upendra Rai, a farmer
BSEB records show that this plus-two school is in its third year of affiliation with batches for arts, science and commerce, and an allotted strength of 120 students for each stream. However, the path to this school leads to an open patch of land, with bricks strewn around.
“School owner Upendra Rai’s plot is being used by another Upendra Rai, a brick kiln owner from the same village. An inuaguration ceremony for construction was held three years ago,” said Hareshwar Manjhi, a resident of Panchbhindi village.
When contacted, owner Upendra Rai said: “The empty land is the proposed site for the Binda Dharohar school. We are still in the process of setting it up. We are running a plus-two school from a 12-room unit with tin shades and an asbestos structure at another location.”
Rai said 50 students appeared for the Class XII examination this year. But he did not know how many students had passed, or the number of students enrolled for the 2015-17 session or those who took admission for the 2016-18 session.
4-room godown, locked
Scholar Uchcha Madhyamik Vidyalaya, Sakaddi, Jalalpur
# Owned by Rakesh Kumar, Siwan
A board outside this locked four-room structure, originally a godown but granted affiliation for the 2014-16 session, shows the school’s BSEB code number (41166) and that it is run by Scholar Education Foundation Trust. It has three mobile numbers — one was answered by a man who did not identify himself and said he was not associated with the school, the second was switched off and there was no response on the third.
Sakkadi villagers said two rooms were meant to be classrooms — there were no desks or benches inside — a third for the principal and the fourth a staff room. There is an open ground adjoining the structure but no toilets. The small verandah doubles up as a “shared autorickshaw stop”.
“Someone comes here once a month to open the doors for a few hours. The godown is owned by Sipahi Singh of Sakaddi and rented to a man from Siwan,” said Dinanth Paswan, a Sakkadi resident.
Manoj Kumar, who passed his Class XII from Surajdev Singh College nearby, said he had completed part of his primary education from a school run from this structure. “But now, this is just to show that an inter-college exists,” said Kumar.
No furniture, only cobwebs
Usharvind Madhyamik Sah Uchcha Madhyamik Vidyalya, Ashoknagar, Jalalpur
# Owned by Arvind Singh, Chhapra
This school is located inside a two-storey building, housing a salon and a hardware store at the entrance. The first floor has eight shuttered rooms, with labels outside to identify a principal’s room, a staff room, a computer lab, and four halls.
But cobwebs had gathered on the windows of the classrooms, which didn’t have desks or benches. Owner Arvind Singh said the school, being run by Usharvind Educational Foundation Trust, has not started classes because it is yet to receive a code number from BSEB. “There was an inspection and our school got affiliation from the 2016 session but we have not got our school code yet.”
No student, no teacher
Chandrajyoti Uchcha Madhyamik Vidyalaya, Sutihar
# Owned by Ramashanker Singh, Parsa
This school is a four-room asbestos-roofed structure with a verandah, unplastered walls and a playground but no toilet or water. There were no blackboards inside. Over a dozen desks and benches, said to be the school’s property, were being used by workers at an adjacent site where five rooms with an asbestos roof were being constructed.
The school’s principal and owner Ramashankar Singh claimed that his inter-college was functional. But he did not know why the school was shut or attendance details of students over the previous week. “We got affiliation in 2014 and 115 students appeared for Class XII exams. Eighty students were enrolled for the 2015-17 session. We have not enrolled any student in the current batch,” he said.
2 schools that don’t exist
Asha Sinha Memorial Uchcha Mahavidyalya, Dariyapur, Sonepur & Ravindra Mina Uchcha Madhyamik Vidyalaya, Basatpur
Two schools in Saran — Asha Sinha Memorial higher secondary school at Dariyapur, Sonepur, and Ravindra Mina higher secondary school at Basatpur, Saran — exist in BSEB records but could not be traced. Local residents and teachers of other institutions in the area said they had not heard of these schools.
In Dariyapur, Amit Ranjan, a shop owner, said: “I am 50 years old but have not heard of any such school (Asha Sinha school) in Dariyapur.” In Basatpur, the principal of the government school, Lalbachcha Singh, said: “Ours is the only plus-two school here.”
No students, 1 teacher
Ramvilas Sakla Devi Uchcha Madhyamik Vidyalaya, Sawari, Jalalpur
Records identify the school’s secretary as K K Singh, Chhapra
This school is a three-storey structure with 14 rooms, including one for the principal, another for teachers, two labs and a library. But there were no students here when The Indian Express visited on a working day.
Principal Shesh Narayan Singh was absent, leaving history teacher Amit Kumar Sharma and clerk Hazrat Ali in charge. They identified the college secretary as K K Singh and said the school has been affiliated to BSEB since the 2014-16 session. Sharma and Ali refused to provide information on results and attendance figures for 2016 or contact details of those who run the school, saying they were not authorised to do so. They also refused to explain why students were absent that day.
“For 2015-17, we have 240 students in science and 120 each in arts and commerce. For 2016-18 session, the college has enrolled 240 in science, 27 in commerce and 52 in arts,” said Ali. Asked about his qualifications, Sharma admitted that he had not undergone any teachers’ training course. “I am a postgraduate and get Rs 3,000 per month as salary,” he said.
‘Students on leave’
Subhash Secondary School, Mora Talaab, Biharsharif
# Owned by Subhash Chandra, lawyer, Biharsharif
A two-storey structure housing the Subhash Senior Secondary School, from Class IX to Class XII, is also home to DM International School, with classes from Nursery to Class VIII. Both schools are run in separate shifts.
School authorities said the plan is to keep aside six rooms on the first floor for plus-two classes. But one room earmarked for Class XII was running a UKG class when The Indian Express visited. Principal Suraj Bhatt said: “All the Class XII students have taken leave but it is not a holiday”. He later admitted that the school had only a few Class XII students but did not provide further details, including details of faculty and fees.
Of the sanctioned strength of 120 students each in arts, science and commerce, the school has enrolled 75 in arts, 120 in science and 11 in commerce, said Bhatt, adding that admissions for the current session are underway.
Asked about Class XII results for 2016, Bhatt said: “Four students got second division in arts, five got first division. In science, 22 got second division. In all, 87 students failed. The school possesses two acres of land and of the three labs, two were undergoing “renovation”, said Bhatt.
2 more ghost schools
KMD school, Biharsharif & Dalip Mahto Balika Uchcha Madhyamik Vidyalaya, Hasanpur
These two private schools are among the five granted affiliation by the BSEB during Lalkeshwar Prasad Singh’s tenure as chairman. But they did not exist on the ground.
In Hasanpur, Subham Singh, an employee of another private school, said: “I belong to Hasanpur and have never heard of Dilip Mahto school.” Deepak Vishwakarma, a journalist in Biharsharif, said: “I have been searching for KMD school, too, but have not been able to find it.”