|A para-teacher collects data from villagers in Debra.
Picture by Samir Mondal
Midnapore, Feb. 19: Over 1,500 para-teachers of around 1,200 schools in West Midnapore have not been able to take classes since February 1 because they are conducting surveys for a child census under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) has asked the para-teachers to complete the child census by February 28.
The headmaster of a higher secondary school in Kharagpur said he was facing a tough time anyway running the school with 17 teachers who have to tutor 1,200 students.
“On top of that, one para-teacher was withdrawn on February 1. The para-teacher teaches English in Classes XI and XII. The students will miss at least 30 classes during his 15-day absence. But we can do nothing because we are bound to abide by the government order,” the headmaster said.
The secretary of the managing committee of a higher secondary school in Debra block said the authorities had to spare three para-teachers for the SSA job. “We had no option but to allow the para-teachers to go as they are directly under the SSA,” he said.
The district inspector of schools (secondary), Sanghamitra Makur, said: “The para-teachers are SSA recruits. Naturally, they have to do the jobs assigned to them by the Abhiyan.”
District magistrate Surendra Gupta said the para-teachers were “free to take classes after completing work assigned by the SSA”.
But this seems to be easier said than done.
A para-teacher engaged in the survey said: “Each para-teacher has to conduct the survey in two blocks. It is difficult to complete the job in 15 days. How can one think of taking classes in addition to it?”
The nodal Abhiyan officer in the district, Saswati Das, said the para-teachers would go to every household to find out if children were being sent to school.
“We are conducting a child census with the help of 1,524 para-teachers. They are going door-to-door to find out if all the children are going to school. We are collecting data about the age of the children and if they are already studying in any school,” Das said.
“The information will be stored in a software. The data bank will help us know which child has become eligible to go to school. Our mission is to ensure that all children up to 14 years get school education,” Das said.
According to Das, the para-teachers will also record the number of physically or mentally-challenged children in their survey area. “After getting information on physically-challenged children, we will be able to decide how we can bring them to school or whether they can be taught at home,” she said.
An SSA officer said the software would also record dropout rates and the reasons behind it. It will help the education department get information on the need to set up more pre-primary and primary schools and integrated child development centres.