The Telegraph
Tuesday , July 18 , 2017

Nothing shandar about it

- Education claim stands exposed

You don't even need to venture out of the state capital to find evidence of how ill-informed education minister Ashok Choudhary's claim on Sunday - " Bihar mein shiksha ka DNA shandar hain (The DNA of education in Bihar is good)" - is.

Just head to Balak Madhya Vidyalaya, located in the heart of Patna on Beer Chand Patel Marg. Two other schools - Kanya Madhya Vidyalaya and Madhya Vidyalaya Mithapur - function from the same "campus". The Madhya Vidyalaya Mithapur was shifted here after its building was demolished for construction of the Buddha Smriti Park in 2007. Around 1,000 students study in the three schools that run on shifts, with neither enough classrooms nor toilets.

"We have only two classrooms running classes from Class I to Class VIII. We have no other alternative but to run classes at the veranda. There is only one urinal for girls that both students as well as teachers use," said a Madhya Vidyalaya Mithapur teacher.

The academic session started in April, but the schools have not received textbooks even after four months.

"We have come to know that it will take another three months for Bihar Textbook Corporation to supply books to schools," said a teacher. "Due to the delay, we are facing difficulties in teaching."

Asked about the delay, an education department official said under cover of anonymity: "It is mainly due to late supply of paper from Hindustan Paper Corporation, a Government of India undertaking unit at Guwahati. Now, we have received the paper and given tenders to private presses for printing the books. However, it will take at least two-three months more for supply of textbooks.

"Printing around 10 crore books for nearly 1.80 crore school students from Class I to Class VIII is a time-taking process and sometimes it gets delayed," the official added.

The higher education scenario is no better.

BN College, a constituent college of Patna University established in 1889, is facing acute shortage of teachers with many departments running without any or just one or two faculty members. The physics department has no teacher while more than half a dozen departments - history, political science, Hindi, Urdu, zoology, botany and statistics - are running with just one teacher each.

"Teachers' crunch at college is one such problem that the state government is unable to solve. To meet the teachers' crunch the university has hired some visiting faculty members who are paid Rs 250 per class," said BN College principal Raj Kishore Prasad.

The stopgap teachers have failed to meet expectations.

"Most of the visiting faculty members are our seniors or MSc students from other colleges. The varsity is giving Rs 250 per class to these teachers and for such a meagre amount you can't expect any qualified person to teach college students," said Sanjay Kumar, a second-year physics student.

Sanjay, like other students, depends on coaching institutes for his studies.

Lack of infrastructure is a cause for concern here too. For example, the physics laboratory has not been upgraded for more than two decades.

"Many students have stopped going to physics lab for practical as neither there is any modern scientific equipment nor any demonstrators to guide us," said Sanjay's classmate Kumar Gaurav.

Ram Swarath Rai, a non-teaching staff member at BN College who looks after laboratories, said: "In 1978 when I joined, the classrooms and laboratories would be buzzing with activity. Students and teachers would often be carrying out experiments in practical classes till late. But now neither the teachers nor the students are interested in teaching and learning."

The college has a sanctioned strength of 102 teachers, but is running with just 32 while the number of students has gone up after the varsity started offering various vocational courses.

"We don't know when the college will get new teachers as the BPSC (Bihar Public Service Commission) assistant-professor recruitment process is yet to be completed," said a teacher at BN College.

Hundreds of candidates who had applied for the post of assistant professors staged a protest on Monday by polishing shoes of passers-by at Bailey Road, near the BPSC office.

"The state government has left us with no other alternative," said Niranjan, who was part of the protest. "The BPSC recruitment drive is pending for three years."

Meanwhile, the education minister claimed on Sunday: "...We are taking these challenges as opportunity in providing quality education to students."

Evidently, he has not visited a government school or college in Patna in a while.

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