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THE DECLINING number of students in schools run by the BMC is cause for concern among officials, but for teachers offering education in some regional languages, it is a serious threat.
According to a reply to a RTI query by Praja Foundation, between 2010 and 2015, the enrollment in Tamil schools has dropped from 9,431 to 6,065. For the same period, the intake in Kannada schools reduced from 4,317 to 2,549 and in Telugu schools it dipped from 3,260 to 2,062.
The declining figures have forced some of the schools to shut down, rendering its teachers ‘surplus’ or extra. The Right to Education Act says a school should have two teachers for 60 students. Teachers after this are declared surplus, and adjusted in clerical jobs or transferred to other schools. Their woes, however, have magnified with the state education department’s decision to implement a ‘no work, no pay’ rule for them.
“Employing us in clerical positions is only a temporary solution,” said the teacher of a Kannada-medium school in
Goregaon that has two surplus teachers. “The key is to look at methods to improve the enrolment numbers,” he said. This year, only six students were admitted to the primary section of her school and 12 in other classes.
“A Kannada school teacher transferred to an English-medium school finds it difficult to cope with the language barrier, especially when they have taught in Kannada for many years,” another said.
The teacher said migrants who hope to return to their states send their children to vernacular-medium schools. “But they are not satisfied with the quality of education, and hence pull their children,” he said.
A teacher in an Aarey Road, school attributed the fall in demand for vernacular-medium schools to the unavailability of secondary sections. “Even if a student takes admission in the primary section of a Tamil school, after Class V she has to switch to either a Marathi or an English-medium school,” she said.
However, the BMC cannot set up secondary section schools unless there are enough students. “Wherever these are available, we don’t hesitate to begin a new section,” said Mahesh Palkar, Education Officer, BMC.
The teachers agree that they need to improve their teaching techniques and work harder to keep students in school. “A private school does much better than a BMC school next door in terms of enrolment. This despite the subsidised fee and other benefits offered by the BMC,” said another teacher from the Kannada school in Goregaon.
The private-aided, English-medium Andhra Education Society in Wadala has seen a rise in enrolment in the past five years. The school offers Telugu as a language. Narendra Varun, administrator of AES, said, “We attribute the rise to the quality of education we offer.”