Karimpur, Jan. 24: Shasthi Pal may be a Class X dropout, but that did not deter him from checking out how his son was doing in school.
He asked Milan, a Class III student of Dhoradaha Primary School, 200 km from Calcutta, to show him his exercise books.
A potter by profession at Karimpur in Nadia, Shasthi first went through his son's arithmetic homework. Milan had divided 70 by 2 and produced 33 as the answer. In another sum, he had divided 25 by 3 and got 5. A teacher had marked both sums correct.
In the English exercise book, Shasthi's son had spelt Europe as 'Europ' in a translation task. The English teacher had overlooked the mistake.
'I really could not fathom how such mistakes could go unnoticed. I have studied only up to Class X and my wife Monica up to Class VIII. The teachers are highly educated when compared to us. Leafing through my son's exercise books, I came across numerous other mistakes, most of which had been ticked right by the teachers,' said Shasthi.
He scribbled notes in the exercise books, addressing the teachers and pointing out their errors. Milan showed what his father had to say to his teachers, but they were hardly bothered.
Then the 30-year-old potter did something that few would have thought he was capable of. He took the exercise books and marched into the office of Birendranath Chatterjee, the district inspector of primary schools.
'Sir, we are poor villagers and have to struggle to make both ends meet. We send our children to school to get them educated. But what is the point of spending so much public money on primary education if the teachers do not perform' A large number of students like my son appear to be victims of poor teaching,' he said in his complaint.
Investigations by Chatterjee's office revealed that Milan's is not an isolated case. Another Class III student, Samar Pal, had spelt ocean as 'ocian' while translating from Bengali and the teacher ticked it right. There were at least a dozen other such mistakes. In the school with 400 students, many like Ananda Razak and Papai Razak would grow up not knowing what is right.
Headmaster Sunil Sarkar described the errors as 'stray occurrences'. 'I think they crept in unwittingly. The teachers are always under great pressure. But I would ensure that such occurrences do not recur,' he said.
Chatterjee dubbed the teachers' performance 'pathetic'. It is 'ridiculous' that a qualified teacher could not detect what a Class X dropout did, he added. 'It pains me'
The teacher-student ratio in Nadia is not quite right, he said. 'While the ideal teacher-student ratio at the primary level is 1: 40, in Nadia it is one teacher for 70 students.'