DRAW a line on the map from Bhojpur through Gaya, Banka and Lakhisarai, ending on the outskirts of Patna, and you would have covered a huge swathe of southern Bihar. Now connect the dots along this route on a list of plus-two schools granted affiliation by the Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB) and the magnitude of the “toppers scam” becomes clear.
It’s not just Muzaffarpur and Vaishali, Ground Zero of the scam, or Saran and Nalanda, home to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Yadav — an investigation by The Indian Express found startling evidence of a dysfunctional affiliation system in plus-two schools across the state. From those that existed only on paper in Bhojpur to one on the outskirts of the state capital that turned out to be a “skill development centre”.
A voice from Bhojpur summed it up. “I have been in the education business since 2001. It is profitable, with minimum investment and risk,” said Shatrughan Sharma, owner of Mahthin Ma Uchha Madhyamik Vidyalaya. Sharma runs a degree college and a plus-two school from 10 cramped tin-roofed classrooms in Bihiya — on a working day, they were empty.
‘They have to depend on us’
Mahthin Ma Uchha Madhyamik Vidyalaya, Bihiya
*Owned by Shatrughan Sharma
Inside a small tin-roofed room along the Ara-Buxar road in Bihiya, with posters of former presidents Dr Rajendra Prasad and Dr S Radhakrishnan on the walls, Saroj Sharma is talking to an “agent” about enrolment “in bulk” of students.
Sharma is the principal of Mahthin Ma Uchha Madhyamik Vidyalaya, a degree college and higher secondary school that share a common name and premises, owned by her husband Shatrughan Sharma. This “institution” is a cluster of four, small tin-roofed buildings spread over about 5,000 sq ft with 10 classrooms of about 12 ft by 10 ft each.
The plus-two course here was granted affiliation by the BSEB in 2014 and the degree college, offering courses in the arts stream, has been recognised by the Bir Kuer Singh University in Ara. “We have been sanctioned 120 students each in arts, science and commerce. In 2016, 80 science, 85 arts and six commerce students cleared Class XII. One student each from science and arts got a first division. Over 100 students failed,” said Sharma.
For the 2015-17 session, the school has enrolled about 700 students, she said. But the students are nowhere to be seen, nor are the 20 teachers that Sharma claims are on the rolls.
Asked about average daily attendance of students, she said: “About 20-30 per cent”. “You know who comes to such colleges to study. Most students are engaged in farming. Besides, it costs each of them Rs 40-50 to reach college,” said Sharma, adding that the school charges a fee of Rs 3,500-Rs 4,000 per Class XII student for course.
Her husband, Shatrughan Sharma, an education businessman, then leads a guided tour around the premises which, he says, has been taken on a monthly rent of Rs 12,000.
But the tour is a revelation, in more ways than one. Two verandahs have been divided into two classrooms each by partitions, and there are no blackboards or signs of any classes being held. The Indian Express counted at least 50 pairs of desks and benches, some fallen sideways and some upside down.
“If there are no private schools and colleges like us, where would students go to complete Class XII? The state government has only a handful of schools and colleges, they have to depend on us,” he said.
The tour over, Shatrughan Sharma has a request. “Please do not take photographs of the signboards of the school and college in one frame. I am afraid of inspections because I am running a degree college and a school from the same place. As it is, people accuse me of bribing Lalkeshwar (former BSEB chairman Lalkeshwar Prasad Singh) to get affiliation,” he said.
‘Don’t call them schools’
Bir Kuer Singh Madhyamik Vidyalaya, Shivpur
*Owned by Sanjay Kumar, Jehanabad
The Bir Kuer Singh Madhyamik Vidyalaya in Shivpur, which was granted affiliation for plus-two classes by the BSEB in 2014, is a four-room tin-roofed building with a campus of around 1,500 sq ft. There is no signboard and the four classrooms, marked for Class IX, X, XI and XII, are locked.
A caretaker said there has been no academic activity here over the last three years. “Sanjay Kumar, a businessman from Jehanabad, purchased this land and built this structure. Some classes were conducted here initially,” he said.
Local residents alleged that the school is being used as a centre to fill Class XII exam forms. “This building is just to show that a school by this name exists. Please don’t call them schools, they are examination form-filling centres and markets of secondary education in Bihar,” said a student staying nearby, who attends private tuitions for Class XII in Jagdishpur town.
Mangal Prasad Singh Higher Secondary School, Baligaon
According to BSEB records, Mangal Prasad Singh Higher Secondary School in Baligaon was granted affiliation in 2016 for conducting plus-two classes. Tell that to the residents of Baligaon, a village with a population of 12,000, and they laugh.
“We have one high school, which is the government’s Janta Uchcha Vidyalaya, a primary school and a secondary school. We are shocked that someone is using our village address to run a fake plus-two school. Our youths go to neighbouring Garhani or Ara towns for plus-two education,” said Chhattu Singh, a resident of Baligaon.
‘We are shocked’
Ramakrishna Ucchcha Vidyalaya, Sanadia
The Ramakrishna Ucchcha Vidyalaya in Sanadia, a village on outskrits of Ara town, was granted affiliation by the BSEB in 2014. But no one in the two main neighbourhoods of Sanadia — Badki Sanadia and Chhoti Sanadia — have heard of it.
“Both have one middle school each. The only plus-two school in this area is in another village. We are shocked to know that Sanadia has a plus-two school that we don’t know about,” said Mohammed Jamshed Ali, a local teacher.
‘No such school’
Sidhheshwar Singh Memorial School, AP Colony
This school was granted affiliation for running plus-two courses by the BSEB in 2015 — except that it doesn’t exist.
“I have been a resident of AP colony since 1963, and I have not heard of any such school unless someone is running it from his house. Anyway, this is a private colony and no commercial establishment can function from here,” said Professor Satendra Singh, a retired chemistry teacher. Dr Arun Kumar Prasad, a local resident who teaches philosophy at the Mirza Ghalib College in Gaya, said: “There is no such school in our colony.”
SSPS Higher Secondary School, Barahat
*Run by Sanjay Kumar Singh, son of a CPI (M) politician
The SSPS higher secondary school in Barahat was granted affiliation by the BSEB this year and functions from a rented premises with six rooms.
Principal Sanjay Kumar Singh, whose father is local CPI(M) leader Shailendra Prasad Singh, said the school has enrolled 200 students in the arts, science and commerce streams. But there were no students present when The Indian Express visited on a working day.
With Barahat having just one other plus-two school, in Lavokhar, Singh says he fancies “a chance in the education business”. “We have just started the admission process. We are trying to put a system in place and waiting for the BSEB to complete its investigation so that we can settle down. We have been hearing about inspections and are ready for it,” said Singh.
‘We have no idea’
Umesh Bhalikshan School, Lakhisarai
It’s not just local residents of Lakhisarai town, the existence of Umesh Bhalikshan plus-two school, granted affiliation by the BSEB in 2015, was news to even the District Education Officer. “We have no idea about this school,” said Triloki Singh, DEO, Lakhisarai. Asked how the school obtained affiliation, Singh said the DEO’s inspection report, one of the pre-requisites for affiliation, was submitted by his predecessor.
‘No classes in 3 years’
Bajrang Bali Asha Devi Higher Secondary School, Khairatali
*Owned by Bajrang Bali Shaikshnik Evam Samajik Sansthan
On the outskirts of Patna, along the Khairatali-Ramakrishna Nagar Road in Sampatpur, is the Bajrang Bali Asha Devi Madhyamik Uchcha Vidyalaya, which was granted affiliation by the BSEB in 2016 to conduct plus-two classes.
Principal Vishwajit Kumar said the school — eight rooms, about 10 ft by 10 ft each, inside a newly whitewashed building — is run by a Patna-based trust, Bajrang Bali Shaikshnik Aur Evam Samajik Seva Sansthan. “We have not admitted any students in the last three years in any class. We run a skills development centre here,” said Kumar.