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Calcutta-style school gherao in two districts

Behrampore, Dec. 19: The student gherao in four Calcutta schools yesterday reopened a closed chapter in Murshidabad, with pupils who failed to clear their selection tests keeping teachers and staff confined for close to nine hours today.

The students of Sekhalipur High School in Lalgola demanded a re-exam, as the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education had ordered in a Santoshpur school where teachers and staff were locked up by pupils through the night.

Waving newspaper reports of yesterday’s siege and shouting slogans, 60 students of the Lalgola school locked the main gate at 11am. Around 50 Class XI students who too were kept confined were allowed to leave at 6.30pm. Of the 60, 39 failed to clear the higher secondary selection test while 21 flunked in their Madhyamik selection exam.

The blockade was lifted at 7.30pm.

“There should be a re-exam. If the students of the Santoshpur school are allowed a re-exam, why not us?” asked Jyotsnara Khatoon, who failed to clear the Class XII selection exam. “We will unlock the main gate only after the headmaster accepts our demand.”

Dibaditya Roy, a Class X student, said: “Council rules are applicable to all schools. So if the Santoshpur students are allowed to appear for a re-exam, why should we be deprived?”

Later in the day, education minister Bratya Basu said “a final decision on whether a school should allow students to appear for the board exams will be taken by the school administration, not by the council”, reversing the council’s decision on the Santoshpur Rishi Aurobindo Balika Vidyapeeth.

Guardians of some of the students of Sekhalipur High School also joined the protests. “The students are justified in their demand. That is why we have joined them,” said farmer Abdur Rakid, whose son flunked in the Class X selection test.

Around 20 teachers and six non-teaching staff were kept confined. Only around 50 students were present today as classes have been suspended after annual exams.

Headmaster Sahin Sarafi said over phone that the protest was uncalled for. “After the selection test results were announced on December 15, the guardians of some of the students who had failed met the school managing committee. But when we showed them the answer scripts, they were satisfied and even pulled up their wards. The father of one of the students even asked her to apologise,” Sarafi said.

“Today, five students entered my chamber with newspaper reports of the Santoshpur incident and asked me to read it out aloud. When I refused, they left but returned within half an hour with more students and their guardians. They locked the main gate and sat outside,” he added.

Asked if he would seek police help, the headmaster appeared hesitant. “After all, they are my students. We are trying to make them understand that they are making a wrong demand,” Sarafi said earlier in the day.

Students passed

The authorities of a Burdwan school today agreed to declare passed 27 students who failed to clear the Madhyamik selection test, buckling under pressure from pupils and guardians who kept the teachers confined for over four hours from 1pm.

“On Monday, some of the guardians had threatened us with dire consequences if the failed students were not declared passed,” a teacher of Krishnadebpur Girls’ High School in Kalna said.

Teacher-in-charge Subhra Goswami said: “We had to accept the demand under pressure from the students and their guardians.”

A school source said the Trinamul-controlled managing committee had “mounted pressure on the teachers to take a decision in favour of the failed students”.

Managing committee members refused comment.