Mohammad Faisal topped Class V last year but has not learnt anything in the three months he has been in Class VI. Neither he nor his teachers can be blamed for this — there is no textbook for Faisal.
For the past two years the government has failed to provide textbooks to students of classes VI to VIII in the nearly 170 Urdu-medium schools in the state, most of which are in Calcutta and its surrounding areas.
Under the right to education act, the state government has to provide textbooks free to students at government and government-aided schools till Class VIII.
All Urdu-medium schools in the state are aided by the government.
In the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic sessions, the government failed to provide any textbook to the students of the three classes.
This year, the schools have received booklets of less than 100 pages for students of Class VII. For the sixth and the eighth standard students, nothing has come yet.
“The booklet for Class VII students contains two chapters each of mathematics, life science and environmental science,” said Alamgir Ali, the principal of Mohammad Jan Higher Secondary School on Bolai Dutta Street in central Calcutta.
A syllabus overhaul has compounded the problem for both teachers and students this year. While till last year, students could make do with used copies of textbooks, this year new textbooks are a must.
The guardians of the students are hounding the teachers and the principals for the books.
“We are helpless. We have been repeatedly meeting officials of the school education department. We are worried ourselves. The current academic session is into its third month and we are yet to get any book for classes VI-VIII. The teachers are unable to teach anything from the syllabus,” said Shahid Aslam, the headmaster of Momin High School in Narkeldanga.
“This is the third year on the trot we are facing this problem,” said Alamgir Ali.
In 2013, the council had handed over money to the schools to buy books halfway through the session.
“But where from could we buy the books? Private publishers stopped publishing the books after the government announced that it would provide them,” said Ali.
The non-availability of textbooks is showing on the results of the students.
“We have witnessed a sharp drop in the performance of the children because of lack of books,” said Ali.
Kalyanmoy Ganguly, the administrator of the state secondary education board, said the printing of the Urdu version of the textbooks for classes VI and VIII is almost complete. “We will send the books to the schools soon.”
He said the content of all the textbooks changed this year because of the syllabus overhaul.
“The printing of the Urdu-version of the text books for classes VI and VIII, based on the new syllabus, got delayed because the contents had to be translated. The printing of the new Class VII books, however, is over and they are being sent to the schools,” said Ganguly.
As for the booklets for the Class VII students, he said: “Those were printed as a stopgap arrangement.”
Around 15,000 students appear in Madhyamik every year from the Urdu-medium schools. A large number of students in these institutions are from underprivileged households.
“The parents send their children to study here because the fees and other expenses are nominal. But if we cannot provide them with books, these students will drop out,” said Shahid Aslam.
The community in the state has seen a sharp rise in education amongst girls in recent years.
Most schools Metro spoke to said the number of girls enrolled was more than the boys. Educationists feel that the absence of books may lead to a drop in the number of girls going to schools.
“If the grades of these girls fall in the absence of books, the parents may not feel encouraged to send them to school. That will be a major a setback,” said Aslam Ali.