The last time Harvinder Chauhan stepped inside a Delhi government school was three decades ago, as a student of one such school. Visiting government schools never figured on Atar Singh’s to-do list, but having to send his children to a private school he can’t really afford, made Singh want to know how bad a government school could be.
Chahaun, a financial consultant, and Singh, who works in marketing research, meet at 7.30 am every day, and begin their survey of schools in Mayur Vihar, before heading to work. They are part of a group of volunteers doing a survey on the condition of government schools, an initiative of the AAP government.
Pen in hand, the men get busy. While Singh asks questions, Chauhan marks things in the checklist given to them by the AAP. They start out with the basics — availability of toilets, water and electricity. They check water taps, fiddle with electrical boards, step inside toilets, however dirty. After marking their observations in the list provided in the form of a Yes or No, they move on.
“If it’s not completely clean or working, we mark it a No,” says Chauhan. Quickly but efficiently, they move from room to room, checking on availability of desks, blackboards, lights, windows, doors, as if they have done it a thousand times.
Sometimes, they stop mid-way, deliberating over a point on the checklist. “Two toilets are working, but nine are locked. Should I mark a Yes or No in the availability of toilets,” Chauhan asks Singh. “Mark a No,” replies Singh.
So far they have visited 10 schools, and they are unhappy with what they have seen. “Of the 10 schools, we found only two up to the mark. I don’t know how students study in the other eight,” says Singh.
Never do the two men doubt the purpose of what they are doing, or if it would amount to any good. “These reports will be compiled and sent to the department, and action will be taken,” one of them says, before heading to work.