GUWAHATI, Feb 22 � If they could speak out, they would have shamed those in the helm of affairs. Small children in Government run elementary schools continue to suffer excruciatingly in the absence of positive interventions. From dearth of teaching staff to lack of infrastructure, young students � many from poor families � are enduring a hopeless learning experience.
According to Ratul Goswami, general secretary of Guwahati Subdivision Primary Teachers� Association there are more than 400 single teacher schools in and around Guwahati in which several classes have to be taught by only one teacher.
If that is not enough of a challenge, the inclusion of the fifth standard in such schools has created an unprecedented situation. There are schools like Datalpara LP School in Guwahati in which more than hundred students of Class V have been enrolled this year without adequate teaching staff or infrastructure, he added.
Prof Gayatri Goswami of Gauhati University�s Department of Education, when contacted said, there are a number on maladies affecting elementary education such as inadequate teaching staff and untrained teachers. Favouring induction of more teachers in primary schools, she further underlined the need for better training of teachers.
�We speak of Right to Education, but that can only be feasible when well-trained teachers are present to make learning a joyful process for children. Trained teachers will know not just what to teach, but how best to impart education,� Prof Goswami noted.
At present, many primary schools, already understaffed, are handicapped by teachers being assigned duties for carrying out the ongoing population census. In the heart of the city, around 50 students from six different classes are being taught by a single teacher in Harijan Buniyadi Vidyalay since the day two teachers were called in for census duties. Aftab Hussain, the headmaster in charge of the school described it as a serious situation.
Worryingly, many schools in Guwahati as well as in other parts of Assam have reported that some textbooks provided under the Sarva Siksha Mission Abhijan are yet to reach students.
Dozens of schools in Guwahati and surrounding areas also continue to function without a secure source of drinking water. In many schools, tube wells have stopped working, and there is no water available for drinking or sanitation.
According to a teacher of a government � run school in Paltan Bazar, �There are not more than ten schools where tube wells can provide water fit for consumption�many have stopped working because the water level has dropped since those were installed�.
Now plans are afoot to build modern toilet facilities for schoolchildren, designed to benefit girl students in particular. However, teachers are worried how the new facilities would function in the absence of running water.
�Forget other things like hand washing that has been promoted by UNICEF in many parts of the country, there are dozens of schools in greater Guwahati where there is no source of safe drinking water inside the campus,� said a lady teacher.
This apart, the dismal state of elementary education in Assam has been clearly revealed by the provisional Annual Status of Education Report (Rural), which found that only 60 to 70 per cent of students of Class I to IV in Assam are enrolled in schools. Among other significant findings, which should be a matter of concern � less than 40 to 50 per cent of students in Class III can study textbooks specified for Class I.