The AC computer lab at the high school in Durku near Jamshedpur. Telegraph picture
Place: Upgraded High School, Durku, near Rakha Mines in East Singhbhum’s Potka block, about 26km from Jamshedpur
Ninth grader Deepak Murmu (15) plays computer games on a PC. Class VIII student Deepali Mahto (12) watches her friend use the paintbrush option in another PC, waiting for her turn.
The sweltering May has forced authorities to wrap up school at 11.30am instead of the normal 4pm, but children won’t budge from the computer lab.
The Durku cradle, 26km from Jamshedpur, is Jharkhand’s only state-run school to boast an air-conditioned computer hall.
Most children from poor homes in surrounding villages don’t have fans at home. There are no air-conditioned movie halls or malls nearby. So, though there are only two computers, the cool lab is the favourite student hangout.
“Since the school got its computer lab air-conditioned in late 2007, class attendance swelled from 45-55 per cent to 80 per cent now,” said parateacher Madhavi Sharma.
With state-run schools bogged down with an attendance percentage between 50 and 60, even the national attendance average of 70 per cent seems to be too high to achieve. Here, a cool lab makes the figure pole-vault 10 notches higher.
But that is just about the only thing going right for the cradle, which was upgraded from middle to high school this year.
Admissions to Class IX were held this academic session. Till Class VIII, there are 282 students. With 46 new entrants to Class IX , the number of students has surged way beyond 300.
But the number of teachers continues to stay static at seven — two full-time mentors and five parateachers. The parateachers are ill paid at Rs 4,000 or Rs 5,000 a month.
The number of computers, it goes without saying, stays put at two. Students learn basics like MS-DOS, MS Office, Paintbrush and a smattering of theory, but the AC is the main pull.
School education committee president Om Sharma, who stressed they financed the computers and air-conditioner, said they had received letters from the district programme coordinator of Jharkhand Education Project way back in 2003-04 saying that computers would be allotted to them. When nothing happened, in 2007, the school purchased computers, accessories such as UPS and printers, and installed an AC.
Additional district programme officer of East Singhbhum Prakash Kumar, when asked, said he was clueless about the allocation of computers for the Durku school.
But Sharma is determined to get more computers from the government. “The number of students has increased, so two computers are not enough,” he said.
He also wants more teachers.
State HRD joint secretary-cum-director (middle schools) Mamta told The Telegraph that Jharkhand Academic Council (JAC) would recruit teachers. “Within a month or so, vacant posts for teachers in government schools will be filled,” she said.
Students in Durku don’t care one way or the other, as long as the AC works.