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‘Paid holidays’ for Sanskrit teachers

- 14 Kendrapara schools minus students
Teachers sit idle in Nilakantheswar Sanskrit School at Siko village in Kendrapara. Telegraph picture

Kendrapara, Dec. 1: Teachers of at least 14 government-run Sanskrit medium schools in the coastal district have been enjoying the luxury of paid holidays for the past couple of years.

With Sanskrit education gradually losing its sheen, the institutions have recorded zero enrolment. Nilakantheswar Vidya Mandir at Siko village under Rajkanika block headquarters is a case in point. The school building remains locked for the better part of the year. The premises see activities only on occasions such as Independence Day and Republic Day when the national flag is hoisted. Two teachers on permanent pay roll of the government are left without any duty as there are no students to teach.

The situation is similar in 13 other Sanskrit institutions here, which have at least 28 teachers as permanent employees. It is a different matter that an estimated Rs 84 lakh is being drained out of the state exchequer annually towards salary of the “idle” teachers.

Justifying the salaries, a teacher said: “It is not our fault that students have stopped coming. Though we do not have to teach, we are entrusted with non-teaching duties by departmental authorities. Right from census to voters list revision, we perform governmental work round the year.”

Educator Bhagaban Jena said students were shying away from enrolling in these institutions as Sanskrit education was no longer held in high esteem. “The continuation of these schools is a sheer wastage of tax-payers’ money. Since there is negligible to zero-enrolment, they should be shut down with immediate effect,” he said.

The scenario of Sanskrit education is dismal in the district, admitted district education officer Markat Keshari Ray. “We have suggested our seniors to close down these schools. But, instructions from the state directorate of schools and mass education department are still awaited,” he said.

Kendrapara district Sanskrit Teachers’ Association president Purna Chandra Panda said there were two categories of schools for Sanskrit teaching — Prathama (primary level) and Madhyama. The district has 19 Madhyama schools catering to Class VI to X students and the drop in enrolment has been seen mostly in this category.

In primary level schools, large-scale vacancy in teaching posts in the institutions has taken a toll of the teaching of the language. It has acted as a deterrent to students taking up study of Sanskrit, Panda rued. “The government is meting out stepmotherly treatment towards Sanskrit education. Backlog of vacancies in high schools has affected Sanskrit education at the secondary level,” he said.

Students, who evince interest in studying Sanskrit, opt for Hindi due to unavailability of teachers, said a retired Sanskrit teacher Rabi Narayan Pati. “The government needs to patronise the classical language and revive it. Students scoring good marks should be given cash incentives. Teachers should not be solely blamed for the mess,” he said.

Secretary to the schools and mass education Usha Padhee said: “We had been informed about a couple of Sanskrit-medium schools with zero enrolment and we have discontinued their grant-in-aid. At the moment, I have no information about the 14 schools in Kendrapara,” she said.