The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Promoted, but illiterate

Aug. 12: A Class IV student of a state-aided primary school in a Bengal village does not even learn to scribble his or her name, leave alone the basics of language or bits of science, history or math.

Even a Class V dropout father is left amazed by his children's lack of progress after years in school.

Krishna Roy, 35, a rickshaw van-puller of Majdia in Nadia, about 110 km from Calcutta, found to his dismay that his elder son Chiranjit, a Class IV student, did not know how to spell his surname. When Krishna asked younger son Bunty ' he is in Class III ' to write his name, he threw up his hands in defeat.

The boys' mother, Surjya, who never attended school, was heartbroken when she came to know of their dismal showing in front of their father. He approached the authorities of Adityapur Primary School for an explanation.

'We were very worried. With my meagre knowledge, I found they could not spell most Bengali words from their books and were unable to read out a single poem. What has the school been doing' The teachers should have informed me about my children's performance,' said Krishna, who earns about Rs 60 a day.

When Krishna went to the teachers, they assured him that the children would learn everything in due course. They were also not ready to let his children repeat the classes.

Krishna is not the only father let down by the system sponsored by a government that apparently feels for the poor.

Azim Sheikh, a farm labourer at Papuri village in Birbhum, 222 km from Calcutta, has a similar tale to tell. His son Babulal was declared passed by teachers in Class IV and asked to move over to a senior school. But the boy did not know the Bengali alphabet and barely managed to write his name.

In Murshidabad, Mortuz Hossain, the headmaster of the state-aided Jagun Primary School in Raghunathgunj, 260 km from Calcutta, admitted that there were many Class IV students in his school who could not write their names. He, however, would not admit that the teachers were to blame.

'In my school, they are mostly children of bidi workers and first-generation students. There is virtually no guidance at home. Moreover, four teachers find it difficult to manage 300 children,' Hossain said.

Class II student Bimal Das of Chhoto Nilpur in Burdwan, 120 km from Calcutta, does not spell his name correctly. His grocer father Haradhan said the teachers assured that his son would 'pick up' in the next two classes.

Deepa Pal, the teacher-in-charge of Adityapur Primary School, where Krishna's sons study, said the institution was not at fault. She said it was not possible for its three teachers to provide exclusive attention to 210 students. 'Almost all our students come from the lower income group and it is often not possible for the parents to look after their studies at home. At school, we are handicapped,' she said.

Krishna went to block development officer Kartik Mondal last week. 'Sir, my sons are physically sound and of normal intelligence. They are being promoted to their respective classes every year, but they are learning nothing,' he said.

Mondal has referred the complaint to the school education authorities.

The parents of Naresh Roy, Samir Ghosh and Barun Roy, who study in classes III and IV, echoed Krishna.

'We are helpless,' said Naresh's father Deben.

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