In a classroom in Padra’s Latipura Prathmik Shala, a teacher asks Class I students a question in English and gets a faint response. The teacher then repeats the same question in Hindi and there is a unanimous response. Even as the students still continue to respond in Gujarati to most questions asked in English, they fluently break into rhymes like “Johnny Johnny, Yes Papa” in chorus and enact as they recite. They can also say “I am fine thank you, This a notebook, This is a pencil.”
“Now will everybody say a sentence in English?”, the teacher asked. A few students said “Yes”. The teacher then translated the question in Hindi and asked again. Most students then responded in Gujarati — “Yes we will!”
This is the scenario in one of the eight English-medium schools started by the District Primary Education Office (DPEO) across eight talukas as part of the state government’s pilot project. The schools are being run since the last month in separate classrooms of Gujarati-medium schools in Savli, Desar, Padra, Por, Waghodia, Sinor, Karjan and Dabhoi talukas. These schools were selected from among 1,076 government schools across the Vadodara district.
Most of the five-year-olds enrolled at these schools have been to anganwadis earlier or no school at all and are learning the English language for the first time. None of these schools have full attendance yet, and neither do they have enough teachers. The students also await books and teachers take help of puzzles and YouTube videos to teach them English alphabets.
“We are yet to place the orders for the books as the admission procedure is ongoing. Once we get the estimated number of students enrolled, we will begin providing them books,” said Liasion officer for English-medium schools, Mukesh sharma.
A month-and-half after the schools began, the schools are yet to get permanent teachers. As a temporary arrangement, English language teachers at the Gujarati-medium schools who had earlier taught from Classes 5 to 8, have been appointed as teachers for the English-medium schools.
While the regular classes began from June 12, the schools are still accepting admissions for Class I, which will continue till August 31. “Parents have an inclination to enroll their students at self-financed private schools and their reason to do so is because there were no government-run English-medium schools in their area. We want to send these parents to government-run English-medium schools and provide their children with infrastructure and teachers at par with private schools,” said District Primary Education Officer Dr MN Patel.
The DPEO plans to build infrastructure for the schools depending on the inflow of students from the next academic year onwards.
“Next year, we will propose for a separate building but that will depend on the number of admissions we get. Land for this purpose will be procured from each panchayats, respectively,” said Patel.
For most of these schools, the number of students enrolled in the English-medium is much lesser than those enrolled in Gujarati-medium. For instance, the strength of the student is as low as three in Savli as compared to 38 in a Gujarati-medium school and two in Desar as against 33.
The Primary Government English Medium School in Padra is an exception where the strength of the English-medium section in Class I is more than its Gujarati-medium counterpart. “We have two students who are repeating Class I because their parents wanted them to study at the English medium school from the very beginning. We had more of such requests but we restricted ourselves to just two students,” said Tarunkumar Patel, principal of the school.
The students at the English-medium school will also get new uniforms soon — sea-green T-shirt for both boys and girls and black skirt for girls while black trouser for boys.
Hissamuddin Ansari (32), a tailor by profession, has enrolled his five-year-old son at the Primary Government English-Medium School in Por and says he wants his son to talk in English like ‘sahebs’ do. “I was not keen on sending my son to a Gujarati-medium government school and a private school was too expensive for me to afford. I had decided to send him to our village in Uttar Pradesh and even got him enrolled there. But then we received handouts about this school and I got him enrolled here and the next year I will get my daughter enrolled here too,” said Ansari.
Asked about the appointment of permanent teachers at these schools, DPEO Patel said that the appointments would be made by August. “We are waiting for the appointments from the state government,” he said.