The pond next to the middle school at Kherua forces students to stick to the veranda. Pictures by Bhola Prasad
Thirteen-year-old Pankaj is fond of running long distances or playing football like most teens. But the seventh grader, whose father sells vegetables in East Singhbhum’s Ghosidih panchayat, can only choose to sit idle or watch others play carom board during recess at school
Anjali, the daughter of vegetable vendor Ramchandra Mahto, shares the same fate though she would rather choose to play kho-kho any day
Jamshedpur, Jan. 13: For most of the 182 students enrolled in the state-owned Madhya Vidyalaya in Kherua panchayat of Patamda block, some 35km from Jamshedpur, sports is simply not an option.
They cannot take part in outdoor games or make a dash while playing pranks with each other. No, it is a not a draconian directive but a well-intended move keeping student safety in mind as the threat of a watery grave looms large on the minds of teachers.
For, less than 20 feet from their classrooms is a deep pond and the school building that lacks a boundary wall.
To make matter worse, the school, which was established in 1947, runs eight classes (I to VIII) in only four rooms.
If you are not yet surprised, be prepared for more. The school has only two teachers.
“We have no option but provide education amid such a scenario. Most of the times we are scared and keep an eye outside while explaining topics on the blackboard to see if any child has stepped out. We cannot risk inviting the wrath of villagers in case there is a drowning, as people have complained to us several times,” said Bhagirath Singh, in charge of the school.
He said that at times cattle wade into the pond waters for a bath and enter the school premises. The situation is alarming during monsoon, between July and September, as heavy rain lift the water levels up to the school veranda.
Admitting the hindrance to teaching, Sandeep Kumar Sharma said he and Singh stand outside the school when it is time to serve midday meals to ensure the children going towards the pond.
“Controlling movement of children and confining them to the classroom is a strenuous exercise. We feel bad and want them to run and enjoy. But we cannot ignore the safety hazards and have to sternly ask them to have their midday meal in the veranda and stay put in their class. During the leisure period, they are allowed to play only Ludo or carom board,” said Sharma.
To keep track of their schedule, the two teachers assign homework to one class and teach another by turns.
Sudhir Mahto, JVM leader of Patamda, said the schoolteachers had prepared a report about their requirement of a boundary wall and submitted to the education department officials, but to no avail.
“If things do not improve soon, we have no option but to launch agitation before the education department,” he said.
Asked, additional district programme officer (Jharkhand Education Project) of East Singhbhum Prakash Kumar said he would look into the issue and soon sanction funds for boundary wall.
“To the best of my knowledge I have not received the sketch report about boundary walls of the school. But I will take it up on a priority basis. As far as teacher scarcity is concerned, it is not in our hand as conditions are more or less the same across the state. There has been no recruitment of teachers since 1996.”
State representative of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights Ganesh Reddy said the Union HRD ministry had made it mandatory for schools to have boundary walls wherever safety hazards exist.
“The administration should accord priority to such schools while sanctioning funds for construction of boundary walls. I will take this up with the East Singhbhum district administration,” he assured.