| A crowd of protesting students in front of the school. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, Nov. 16: Teachers of Turnbull Higher Secondary School today wore black arm bands, hoisted black flags within the premises and shouted slogans along with the students to protest against the appointment of a new headmaster.
Trouble erupted after Subarno Keshar Gurung arrived this morning to take charge as headmaster of the school which enjoys minority status. The post was lying vacant since the death of O.T. Eden last year. Gurung was appointed on November 9 by the Eastern Himalayan Diocese of the Church of North India (CNI), which runs eight other institutions in the region.
The teachers alleged that Gurung had bypassed N.U.C. Khaling, a senior teacher of the school for the past 16 years and fulfilled all criteria.
Nayan Singh, a teacher, said: “We do not want a headmaster to be imposed on us when we have a teacher who is qualified for the job. We want somebody who knows the institution and the teachers well.”
The teachers alleged that Gurung, who has only 10 years of teaching experience at Tindharia Boys Higher Secondary School, was appointed because he is a relative of Jyoti Dhan Gurung, the secretary of the managing committee. “The managing committee is giving preference to CNI members and the selection process was done in Siliguri instead of Darjeeling. This could be an attempt to sweep under carpet the various irregularities in the functioning of the school,” said Sanjeev Allay, another teacher.
According to D. Shivakoti, another member of the teaching staff, there were irregularities in the teachers’ group provident funds. “Or else, why won’t they show us the figures' Not only that, our students pay more than their counterparts in other similar institutions. Primary students have to pay an annual fee of Rs 300 while for the higher classes it is above Rs 1,000. But the infrastructure is not adequate,” said Shivakoti. The school, which was established in 1906 and enjoys minority status, has about 800 students and the authority to appoint its own headmaster.
The managing committee, however, has denied the allegations. “We had advertised for the post. Of the seven candidates who had applied, the selection committee empanelled three. Among them were Gurung, Deo Prakash Pradhan (from another school) and Khaling. Since Gurung fared best in the selection process, he was taken. The district inspector of schools has endorsed our selection,” said Bishop Naresh S. Ambala, the chairman of the selection committee. Ambala also said all meetings of the diocese are held in Siliguri as the resource centre is based there.
“Moreover we did not include the secretary in the selection process,” said Ambala. Regarding the provident fund irregularities, the Bishop said there were no written complaints. “If they give us in writing, we will definitely look into it,” said Ambala.