The virus of student unrest over poor results struck a Behala school on Friday as the teachers found themselves locked in by failed students, but for the first time popular outrage forced the perpetrators to backtrack.
Sarsuna residents broke open the locks on all three gates of Shibrampur Nanilal Vidyapeeth after the protesters — 21 girls who had failed the HS selection test — turned down their repeated pleas to let out the teachers.
The girls then called some of their male friends, triggering a clash. A local youth identified the male friends as leaders of the students’ union of the local college.
The Trinamul Chhatra Parishad runs the student union of Sarsuna College.
“The first thing the college gang did was take one of our para boys into an alley and slap him. They asked him how dare he break open the locks and touch the girls,” recalled a resident who was part of the resistance group.
Word spread and about 90 people from the neighbourhood came out. “We chased the boys back to the college. The general secretary of the union later apologised on behalf of the students,” the resident said.
The results of the selection test of the co-educational school were published last Friday. “Of the 122 students in Class XII, 21 girls had failed the exam. The girls, who had scored less than 20 per cent, had accepted their fate but the series of campus incidents from Monday seem to have emboldened them to launch a protest and demand that they be declared passed,” said a school source.
Since Monday, the unsuccessful students had been coming to the school in groups with the demand that they be allowed to write HS next year. But the authorities refused to budge.
On Friday, the girls locked the three school gates around noon while the teachers and others were inside.
The authorities learnt about what was happening outside when the parents of some students of the secondary section, who had come to collect their wards’ results, reported to teacher-in-charge Madan Mohan Mahapatra that the gates had been locked.
“I enquired and was shocked to learn that the 21 girls who had failed the HS selection test were behind the incident,” said Mahapatra.
“Never in my 21 years as teacher have I seen such a shameful and disgraceful incident. Students nowadays think they can get away with anything.... I feel like quitting,” said Mahapatra.
The teachers, however, refused to get cowed down and ordered the girls to open the gates.
But the girls refused and as soon as local residents learnt about it, they came to the teachers’ rescue around 1pm.
“Some of the unsuccessful students had earlier brought in strangers to the school and tried to pass them off as relatives at parent-teacher meetings. I am sure many of their parents don’t know anything about their performance,” said a teacher.
The leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Surjya Kanta Mishra, blamed chief minister Mamata Banerjee for the disturbing trend, though half in jest.
Addressing a rally in Burdwan’s Raina, the CPM leader said: “There are no words to condemn the ongoing mess at educational institutions…. Students are taking teachers hostage for unjust demands. They must have learnt this from the chief minister. Here the chief minister sets her own question paper, takes the test and evaluates her own performance.”
The dig was at the chief minister’s tendency to say she has finished 99 per cent of the work she had set out to do.