|A villager points at the oven in open air where the midday meal is prepared for students of Barhe primary school (top) where Sujit used to study. Pictures by Prashant Mitra
Ranchi, Feb. 4: A day before RIMS hands police the autopsy report that will prove if eight-year-old schoolboy Sujit Munda becomes Jharkhand’s first child to die of corporal punishment, post-mortem of the village school is in order to explore why state-run education is ailing everywhere.
Sujit lived with his parents and two younger brothers in Barhe, Chanho block, in Ranchi district that 2011 Census figures say has a literacy rate of 76.06 per cent, higher than the state number of 66.41 per cent. The boy studied in the village’s Rajkiya Prathamik Vidyalaya, which has a 13-acre campus with four neem trees and 10 spacious classrooms divided in four buildings.
On the face of it, the school, established in 1984, looks like a healthy example of a state-run primary institution (not middle school as earlier reported), but it is not so.
When The Telegraph visited Barhe yesterday, villagers, including education committee members under the panchayat, and teacher Md Arshad Hussain traded charges against each other, accusing each of misusing school property.
While both sets of charges have to be proved, it was evident that children were the worst sufferers.
Classes were few, beatings frequent.
Classrooms were found covered with fodder and dust. One had a big sack of husk kept for the cows and buffaloes roaming outside the building. The campus has no boundary wall.
The inspection team comprising sub-inspector of schools Ramashish Pandit, Chanho block education extension officer Sheikh Aasim and block project officer Mohammed Imtiyaz would have also noticed newly constructed homes on the school campus, suggesting encroachment.
Dirty walls appeared not to have seen a coat of paint for years. The toilet has no water.
Most surprisingly, while Barhe village has electricity, the school does not.
Ideally, the school should have 200 students, two regular teachers and three para-teachers. However, it has only one teacher, Arshad, who now stands accused of fatally beating Sujit and is under suspension. The man also denied Sujit was his student, suggesting how easy it is to manipulate attendance registers.
The state-run school gets a daily attendance of 20-30 students. Those who can afford it, send their children to private schools outside the village. Only the poorest families in Barhe send their children to the state-run school.
Panchayat samiti member Tapeshwar Yadav said the school had been neglected. “It has only one teacher, while the post of one regular and three para-teachers are vacant. The sole teacher does everything from Census work to midday meal organisation. Children have suffered,” he said.
Champa Oraon, the chairman of village education committee under the panchayat, absolved his own responsibilities by getting voluble against Arshad. “I used to depend on him,” he said.
When The Telegraph asked sub-inspector of schools Pandit why only one teacher was posted, he said that the number was decided upon how many students came to a particular cradle.
As a tribal village, Barhe in Chanho block doesn’t fare badly on many social indicators. Some 40km from the capital, the electrified village has TV and cellphones. It is not inaccessible, being only 3km from the Ranchi-Mandar stretch of NH-75. The village has a few pucca roads.
Of its 2,000 population, 600 are voters according to the 2009 Election Commission list, which may go up in the 2014 headcount. Most people farm paddy and vegetables.