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Schools under siege over promotion

Krishnagar/Malda, May 13: Over a hundred Class IX students of a Nadia school locked up teachers in the staff-room yesterday after being declared unsuccessful in their annual examinations.

The teachers of a school in Malda, a few hundred kilometres away, met with much the same fate today as parents joined the children in laying siege to the headmistress's room.

The demands were the same: promotion to Class X. The excuse for taking the school heads and teachers hostage same, too: the children will have to study a new Madhyamik course, to be introduced in Class IX this year.

The students of Purba Jagadanandapur High School at Bethuadahari in Nakashipara, Nadia, 130 km from Calcutta, claimed they would be inconvenienced with a new set of books if they had to repeat a year.

At Kanya Shikshalaya Girls High School, the parents said it was 'cruel' to deny promotions to more than half the students in Class IX for the same reason. In a class of 112 girls, 65 failed to clear the exam.

Since the results were declared last Friday, the parents had been pleading with headmistress Karabi Nandi for the children's promotion. With their requests ignored, they decided to step up the heat.

The agitation was on till late tonight. Several teachers and the headmistress were confined to the school, whose gates had been locked up as well.

The parents were carrying banners of the students' union of the RSP, a Left Front ally.

Nandi said: 'We tried to be as lenient as possible, 272 was the total required to be promoted and we considered those who secured 250 or above. How can we promote those who got 2, 5, 4 in several subjects.'

More than half the Class IX students also failed in the Nadia school ' 110 out of 200.

The teachers were locked up along with headmaster Manik De.

The students described the school's decision to hold back so many students as 'inhuman'. They also said that they would not be able to use any of their old books because of the new syllabus. 'Most of us are from poor families and we will find it difficult to buy all the Class IX books all over again,' said Dipen Biswas, son of a daily labourer who failed in all the science subjects.

'My father is a poor daily wager. How can he buy so many books again' asked Dipen.

On an average, their parents will have to spend about Rs 1,000 if they have to buy all the Class IX textbooks.

Aniruddha Biswas, who failed to secure pass marks in English and mathematics, said: 'I did not have all the books. I borrowed them.'

The students withdrew their agitation following an assurance from managing committee secretary Anil Kundu late last evening. 'We are trying to evolve a way to help them. We'll evaluate their papers again and see if some extra marks can be awarded. After all, they are very poor,' he said.

In Malda, police had to step in. 'I have told the force to make sure that there is no breach of peace... Students are involved,' said district police chief Sashikant Poojari, his men almost rendered helpless by the locked school gates.

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