More than 140 students of the primary section of Giribala Sarkar Balika Uchcha Madhyamik Vidyalaya were “punished” by being disallowed to sit for an examination on Monday. Their fault: their failure to join the Left-sponsored anti-war mahamichhil on Sunday. The school is situated next to Sailendra Sarkar Vidyalaya, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s alma mater in Telinipara Lane, Shyampukur.
School officers said an “unofficial appeal” was made to all students to take part in the rally, in which 19 Left organisations, led by the CPM, participated. But angry guardians said a notice was put up, asking students to join the demonstration.
On Monday morning, some teachers and non-teaching employees known to toe the ‘party line’ decreed that students who were absent from the rally would not be allowed to write the examination. After debating the issue for a few hours, it was decided that the students would be “compensated” by waiving the exam altogether.
Both school managing committee president Sumitra Chaudhuri and headmistress Madhabi Basu expressed their shock at the incident. “The matter has been brought to my notice and it was, apparently, the students’ absence from Sunday’s rally that led to the situation,” said Chaudhuri, also the principal of a Calcutta college.
She condemned the incident and admitted that it was a very “unfortunate” matter. “We have asked the teachers of the morning section to submit a written explanation and it will be discussed at the managing committee meeting,” Chaudhuri said. “This has never happened before and we shall ensure it never recurs,” she added.
In the morning, however, tempers ran high. Students came, as usual, to the morning school, accompanied by their guardians. But soon there was confusion, after the guardians discovered that some teachers had decided to “defer” the exams for Classes III and IV.
With angry guardians clamouring to know why this sudden decision was taken, some members of the staff came out to tell them what had really happened. But when they were told the reason for the “postponement” — failure to attend Sunday’s “peace rally” — they were even more incensed. Teachers were forced to come out and assure the guardians that the examinations would be held on schedule.
The word, however, was not kept. “When they (the students) came out, we learnt that the exams were not held, in spite of the promise,” said a guardian, refusing to be identified. “My child may be victimised,” she said, to explain why she wanted to remain anonymous.
Other guardians alleged that some students were made to stand on the bench and denied tiffin. However, these claims were denied by school officers.
Guardians were excited and angry, first because of the threat of “punishment,” and second, the teachers’ failure to keep their word. A posse from Shyampukur police station was posted at the school. “We have asked both parties to reach a compromise,” an officer said, following which the exam-waiver decision was arrived at.
The school, established in 1949, has 800 students, over 300 of whom study in the primary section. Councillor Karuna Sengupta (of the CPI), angered by the incident, said she would initiate a probe.