This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

I Had Heard Of How Govt. Schools In Delhi Work, But The Truth Is Worse Than Rumours

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Submitted anonymously:

Schoolgirls sit inside their classroom before collecting their free mid-day meals, being distributed by a government-run primary school, in New Delhi May 8, 2013. India may soon pass a new law to give millions more people cheap food, fulfilling an election promise of the ruling Congress party that could cost about $23 billion a year and take a third of annual grain production. The National Food Security Bill, which aims to feed 70 percent of the population, could widen India's already swollen budget deficit next year, increasing the risk to its coveted investment-grade status. REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal (INDIA - Tags: EDUCATION POLITICS FOOD) - RTXZEKN
Representation only. Source: REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal

Three months into my new job as a trainer at a government school in New Delhi, and I am actually living the plight of government schools that I had only heard so much about. Certainly it is a government set-up and the work culture and attitude is very different from a corporate house or an NGO, but I am sorry to share some of the facts that make my head and heart ache- to see what a significant system such as basic education is doing to our present and future.

The new session has just started and that has given me a better chance to interact with the staff, principal(s) and the children. As one of the vocational subject trainers, I have been termed as ‘guest faculty’ at the school, and the treatment I receive is very far from what a ‘guest’ would usually be treated as. I ‘help’ in doing many menial jobs such as counting (read verifying) marks given by teachers to students, sitting with teachers to ‘help’ them tally marks, scoresheets, grades, etc., getting classrooms emptied, getting a teacher/student for the Principal, taking attendance for a class teacher who is absent. Out of all these, the one that is most common and that I dread is having to go to a class as a replacement for an absent teacher. This is called ‘absentee’ class.

Absenteeism

I used to think that the news about absenteeism of teachers at government schools was exaggerated, but really, it is for real here. Every single day there are so many teachers who do not turn up for their classes, that either we go to (sometimes classes are combined because both class teachers are absent) or have nobody inside. Children obviously make noise and have a gala time in the absence of a figure in the class on those days. At times, I wonder what could be the reason/s they are not able to come to school so often.

Infrastructure

On my first day, I was shocked to see the pitiful state the school was in. I don’t mean the building, in fact, the school building is rather big and spacious and has a decent school ground as well (this one being a model school). But there is a lack of classrooms nonetheless. Students are made to sit in the corridors, in the open, or even taken to the ground because there aren’t enough classrooms for classes to be taken in.

Recently, we’ve been declared a model school (meaning we have received funds to expand the school premises, include better facilities and training for improved learning; considered prestigious to be nominated as one) and so parts of the building are being run down and reconstructed to add more classrooms. I hear that the project was not completed last summer and is being done so now. Currently, the building is technically a construction site, a hazardous area with rooms covered in dust and leaking ceilings. Ceiling fans look clean and new, but many of them are out of order. Children complain how hot and difficult it gets to sit without fans. During winters, the challenge was that window panes and glasses were all broken (they still are), and as the chilly air would gush in, it was saddening to see little hands and legs shiver as they wrote.

And recently, what with the extreme heat and early rise in temperatures in Delhi, in one of my classes out in the corridor, a girl got heatstroke. As her classmates complained to me about the lack of a proper class or fans outside, all I could ask them to do was complain to their class teacher. The class teacher, equally helpless asked them to rearrange their desks further into the shade and sit. I dread being in the place of a class teacher and having to say that to little children. There are such cases throughout the day, where children get heatstroke and leave for home. Hence, I am not surprised when children do not turn up the next day for school.

As a child, I used to love Library periods because we were allowed to choose a book of our choice and take it home to read. Due to the lack of a computer set, the librarian is not able to feed the data in a system and thus unable to issue books to the children. At one such class, I witnessed how one book, chosen by the librarian was handed to the class, and they would come up and read one by one, paragraphs to the class. How boring! No wonder they sit and chat instead.

Health And Hygiene

The building walls have pretty posters that talk about hygiene and water, but the school doesn’t even have a tap or source for drinking water! We carry our own from home, but once it is over, it becomes a problem. Some of my colleagues have started carrying two bottles to work. I wonder if the children are too, since the heat is only getting worse. A colleague said that the taps downstairs are only for washing hands, not drinkable.

Every year the newspapers record the number of death of girl students at government schools who kill themselves or fall sick because they are not able to relieve themselves when at school. Many schools do not even have toilets. I have not been inside the children’s toilets yet, but I wouldn’t imagine them to be better than the staff toilet. The staff toilet that I use is kept up by one lady cleaner who is always complaining about how much work she has to get done alone, for such little pay. Frankly speaking, it is not possible for one person to look at toilets, rooms, labs, stairs, etc. together daily and maintain hygiene. Why don’t they hire more staff?! The toilets get dirty and stinky during the day, and as a matter of fact, even staff hold on to their bladders for as long as they can because of this very small reason. Often, we run out of water as well.

Quality Of Educators

To say the least, I neither have a B.Ed degree nor am I a PGT (Post Graduate Trainer) or TGT (Trained Graduate trainer). I have a post graduation degree and have some valuable years of industry experience in the area of my expertise. I felt underqualified the first week, amongst staff who had these teaching qualifications. Today however, I look at some of these teachers who are supposed to be experts in their areas of study, and at those who have undergone training to deal with young children, who have been made aware of the various innovative and interactive ways of teaching students, and feel extremely disappointed, because none of what they know is ever applied to their classes. Some even come ill-prepared for classes.

Teaching is, in fact, a life-long learning profession where the educators need to challenge themselves to learn more and push the students to remain up-to-date and abreast with knowledge too. It appears to me here though, that teachers stop at where they learned. Very few even use technology as a tool to support their imparting of knowledge. And at a time when technology is taking the world by storm, majority of the educators do not even know the basics such as MS Word, Excel, how to create a presentation slide, or how audio-visual works on a laptop, simply because they don’t want to un-learn and re-learn. Instead, they will look for the likes of myself (younger teachers/trainers) to do their work such as feeding in data on a spreadsheet or uploading marks and sending it to the Board.

Yoga and games periods should be looked forward to the most for that is all the students get in the name of an extra co-curricular activity, and especially at a time when we are focussing on ‘all work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy’ more than ever before. To my dismay, the day I went looking for these teachers (the yoga enthusiast in me was curious to see who they were), both teachers were taking their classes inside the classroom! When I asked them why they weren’t taken outside for activities, they simply said that they like to do it inside the classrooms instead of in the heat outside. To add to that, I’m sorry to say but, out of all the staff I have met, these two are the most unfit, who find difficulty even in climbing the stairs.

Quality Of Education

A few years ago, there was an alarming record of young students who committed suicide due to the failure to clear examinations. Since then, the then government started the non-detention policy which allows students to be promoted irrespective of their performance till the eight standard. As a result, students have stopped working hard, or even studying at all, for they know that eventually they will be promoted. Similarly, parents are happy enough to know that their child’s year is not wasted at least by getting promoted promptly. But what this also means is that, by the time the student comes to the ninth standard, there is a high chance the he/she knows nothing. Some don’t even know their ABCs! So, obviously when they reach the ninth standard, they suddenly face the pressure of difficult subjects and eventually fail. Since the non-detention policy is no longer applicable, they are allowed to try and pass twice, after which they are expelled. Many students actually wait for the day of their expulsion because they simply don’t want to continue studying.

With the new session, many teachers have been transferred, many ended their contracts. This has led to shortage of staff until the ”system’ figures out when to send new and more staff. This has also led us to teach subjects that we aren’t even qualified for. I have been asked to teach English to the newly admitted young sixth standard children for a few months until they get their teacher. Now just because I can read and write in English does not necessarily mean I can teach the subject. With much hesitance I went to tell the Principals that it was unfair on the children, and that they deserve someone more qualified in ‘the’ subject, someone with a B.Ed and PGT or TGT in English. As expected, I was instead asked to cooperate for a few months, and why would they listen to me alone, because the rest of the teachers were quietly accepting similar treatments. Similarly, there are teachers who have been given other subjects too; a Home Science qualified teacher is teaching Hindi, a Social Science teacher is teaching Science. They all said the same thing, ‘this is how it is here’, when I asked them why they would not say no?

When I discussed this with another fellow much elder staff member, she replied by just saying that we have sold off education and we simply have no respect left in what we do any more. She added, “how many people will you try to explain things to, and at what levels?” I can’t argue that.

Values

We used to have Value Education as a subject in school, and I always wondered what was the point, for didn’t charity begin at home?

Spoilt by the system, students obviously also develop the wrong attitude towards education as a whole. They do not feel the need to be educated; for them it is just about passing the exams. Students expect to be passed effortlessly; they ask teachers to write answers for them instead, and teachers (on the advise of the principal) in fact does so, lest they fail again. They talk very rudely, have no discipline and even pass comments or abuse teachers secretly (I only pretend not to hear. It’s like getting bullied!). The way they talk and walk, is well, uncouth. Classes are always noisy as they shout and call at one another, yelling each others’ names.

There is an interesting trend that goes on in the school building- everyone walks in twos. I am always approached by two to go to the toilet, get chalk, go give books to a teacher, etc. I ask them how both need to go to the toilet at the same time, and all I get is a giggle. So I asked another colleague who tells me that once there was an incident wherein a child got locked inside, when on her own and couldn’t get out. Since then, students have been advised to go to the toilets in twos. Well, I don’t think that was the solution to the situation, but the way I look at it is that, instead of teaching children to walk head held high, independently, we’re asking them to always rely on a friend even to go to the toilet.

Then, I was appalled during the exam month as I saw how students cheat and copy from each other, simply to pass. It almost made me cry. My colleague said to me that marks mean nothing in life, so you should let them cheat and pass. I agree, marks may not mean much later in life, but what about values? Aren’t we encouraging them to grow up and cheat their families, friends, partners, colleagues and who knows even steal and rob?

Management

Students who fail are asked to reappear for subject papers till they pass, and teachers need to continuously follow-up with them, and even call them from home to come and re-write the paper. It’s funny how the school goes to such extents to get uninterested students to pass. Truth be told, the government’s directions sets all on a spree, but I’m not sure if the direction is the ‘right’ way after all. But I get it. Principals don’t want students to fail because the process of sending failed students’ details and the documentation thereof is tedious; teachers don’t want them to fail because it is a pain to follow-up and call them, prepare question papers so many times; parents don’t want them to fail because what will happen to the little money they were getting in the name of free education; but does the student realise any of that? Nope, for everybody else’s worry is not for the student’s education, but towards fulfilling the system they have been asked to follow strictly.

And of course, the workplace here too has its shares of favouritism, beauracracy and corruption. There is subtle work politics and egoism here as well, which is inevitable in today’s time anywhere, which I am fine with as long as the show goes on. However, it annoys me to see why decisions are compromised in the name of ego and bias.

While regular teachers get paid on time with their perks, part-time, contract and guest teachers have not been getting paid on time despite protests. In fact, their examination to become a permanent regular teacher has not been conducted for quite a few years. It is as though the system is not willing to even give them a chance. These guest teachers are hoping that this year, when quite a few teachers will be retiring, vacancies will be created and finally their examination date to become permanent will be out.

As management, we need powerful people who can make good decisions and not just someone who can throw around his/her authority and power whichever way they want. We need good managers. Have you ever thought how different the education system would be if we had MBAs on the seats of the Principals? I think it could be slightly better.

Punctuality, promptness, respect and discipline cannot be forced, just as how we cannot force it on children. These will come when the staff themselves will also feel motivated in their jobs, instead of being micro-managed or treated as students themselves.

Once, my young colleague nudged me, trying to hint to me that the Principal is inside our staff room and I should stand. Not that she would have noticed me anyway, but even though my colleague finds that I may be asking for trouble, I find it unacceptable to simply stand for someone of an authoritative figure, who ‘demands’ respect than ‘earns’ it. And come on, we’re not her students! You may ridicule me for trying to get some corporate treatment in a government school (thanks to my varied experiences), but tell me, is it really too much to ask? Is it really more than the cost of the children’s lives we have in our hands, and their futures?

The ‘Government’ Attitude

I’d only heard about the ‘chalta hai’ attitude of a government set-up before, but to be in it now is certainly a reaffirmation. The problem is that each party here, the management, educators and students all know that it is a government set-up where things are ‘supposed’ to be slack. Teachers aren’t serious about teaching, it’s supposed to be an easy job. I was once told about a teacher who went to teach Maths to a class just 15 days before the exams! For a subject as Maths that children deem as most difficult! Eventually, that term every one of them failed in the subject.

Students know why they are here; parents can’t afford a better education and they can’t expect anything to be any better. Once, a student told me, “This is how things are in a govt. school, ma’am. We’d fail if we don’t go for our extra tuitions.” My younger colleagues who are fresh graduates also in fact want to stick to the usual way of things and teaching; they in fact ask me to take things slow and rather focus on ‘building rapport’ with other staff and principal. Perhaps, what we really need is a better HRD system for the education sector, so that only those who are really interested in the profession of teaching, and who feel for children are hired, instead of those that are only looking for a substitute to earning money or an easy job. Not every youth of this ‘new generation’ has the same attitude in life, some still like the ‘chalta hai’ attitude.

I am not sure if it can be generalised, or only my school has these problems, but it is a sad state of affairs and a pity indeed. We are playing with little lives and their futures here. What I see from the new children who have been admitted this session is that, they have been sent to good public schools till the fifth standard, and do in fact have quite an impressive base in English. For reasons many, now that they have been sent here, to a nearby government school, they are actually in a worse place, for this is the state here.

Government school education was not always like this though, and perhaps this is why it’s distressful state means more to me today. We’ve had ministers and great officers that have made a mark in history, who were educated in government schools. Then why is it now, that instead of progressing ahead, that we are in a pathetic situation instead? Do we have just the politicians to blame?

I’m not aware of the system in other private/public schools, and you may criticise me about how long I would hang in here, and perhaps you’re right for even if I wanted to, for the exact reasons here, I wouldn’t be allowed or be able to continue. You may even say, it’s easy to just write, talk and state what goes on, and we’re all just talking anyway, what with all those schemes and missions the government throws at us every other day just to show that a lot is being done for education.

It all looks like a stage, right?… But I’m playing my part, are you?

You must be to comment.
  1. Binoy

    SINCE AAP GOVT. CAME INTO GOVERNANCE, IT TOOK 4-6 MONTHS TO SURVEY THE DILA[PIDATED CONDITIONS OF ALL SCHOOLS .PLAN OF ACTION CABINET ALLOCATED ₹700 CRORES FOR REJUVENATING SCHOOLS, AND EVERSINCE WORK IS IN PROGRESS. aS MODERNIZATION IS COMPLETED MORE ARE BEING TAKEN UP FOR REJUVENATION. THUS THIS POISONOUS ARTICLE SEEMS OBVIOUSLY FROM THE DESPICABLE BJP & CONG WHO BROUGHT THE SCHOOLS, HEALTH CENTRES AND SO MANY OTHER INFRASTRUCTURES INTO A DILAPIDATED CONDITION AFTER THEIR 25 YEARS LOOTING RULE. THAT THE SHAMELESS WRITER REMAINS ANONYMOUS AND THIS MEDIA SHAMELESSLY ELABORATES SUCH ONE SIDED BIASED CRAP, IS HIGHLY DESPICABLE ..If this media had a format to portray live pics of Schools and Mohalla clinics which have found profound ADMIRATION IN USA,…in reality then NO ONE WILL CARE TO READ THIS RAG ANY MORE.
    I FOR ONE AM WRITING & READING YOUIR MEDIA FOR THE LAST TIME…NO MORE. I AM SHARING THIS LINK IN DELHI FOR ALL TO SHUN YOUR POISONOUS WORTHLESS MEDIA. CHANGE OR PERISH FAST.

  2. Anarkali

    Was a good read!
    @Binoy: I think you probably missed out what the article was trying to say. The writer has covered a lot of aspects and the core being the mentality and attitude of the management in the school’s system and how it has a ripple effect. It’s sad that consequences have to be faced by the children. Also observed how the writer is not blaming the political parties but rather questioning us but you seem to have made it to big political thing.

  3. Ina Gupta

    A crisp article!
    @Author: I have been researching in the field and feel I can really get some insights from your experience to plan further. It would be great to get in touch, please email me on ina.guptaa@gmail.com. Thanks!

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Namrata Vijay

By Sneha Banerjee

By Silca

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below