EVEN AS the Punjab government has decided to merge over 800 primary schools that have less than 20 students, a school in Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s native village Mehraj in Bathinda is not on this list yet. The school falls under Kothe Malluana village panchayat. The village has over a population of over 15,000 and hence has multiple panchayats.
One will be surprised to know the student-teacher ratio at the school. Till Class V (primary school), it has only five students and two regular teachers and a volunteer have been appointed. Also, from classes VI-VIII (middle school), the school has only four students against whom five teachers have been appointed. Thus, the ratio is 1:1 in middle classes. Sources said that this year, no admission took place in Class I and there is one student each in classes II, III and IV and two students in Class V. In Classes 6 and 7 there is a student each while for two students in Class VIII, five teachers have been deputed.
A recent government circular said all schools that fall within a 2-km radius of the next school and have less than 20 students would be merged. However, in the case of Kothe Malluana panchayat, the distance to the next school is between 3 and 4 km. Perhaps this is the reason that this school has not yet come in the list of schools to be merged. The school has adequate classrooms as well as required material for sports wings etc, but despite that students are not coming in the school, revealed village Sarpanch Gamdoor Singh.
However, two other schools in the CM’s native village figure in the merger list – Kothe Tallwali and Kothe Pipli Government Primary Schools that have less than 20 students. They have been decided to be merged in Kothe Talwandi School located within 2-km radius, revealed information from the education department. However, sources at Kothe Malluana school said the school building was located on the outskirts of the village where most of the villagers who are living nearby are from well off families and hence they prefer to go to private schools.
Moreover, for poor students of village, the location of school is not much approachable and hence they don’t prefer to get admission in this school. However it needs to be mentioned that despite the fact that middle classes are having only four students, two more teachers were posted in this school recently. One is a social studies teacher and the other a science teacher.
Meanwhile, another government school of Mehraj village is without a social studies teacher. Teachers, however, are wary of speaking when asked if about being overstaffed. The district education officer had recently visited the school and sought reasons for the low number of students in the school.
However, so far no decision has been made as whether the school is likely to be merged within any other school or not. Village sarpanch Gamdoor Singh said, “In the past two years, I had arranged private transport on my own as because of lack of transport, many students don’t take admission here. This way, the number of students increased but as no one was ready to contribute for transport, I gave up and moreover majority was interested to get their wards enrolled in private schools. The village panchayat has already suggested to the education department they they can either merge the school with the bigger schools or can even send some staff to other schools. It is their decision now.”