On 9th May 2011 IndiaUnheard published a video, which documented how compulsory Census duties were hampering the teaching abilities of teachers at the Machandur Primary School in Ambagad Chowki area of Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh. As a consequence of Community Correspondent Bhan Sahu’s initial video the situation was brought to light in front of different officials and the school now has an additional teacher.
When Bhan had made the original video in 2010 teachers complained that they were overworked. There were two teachers to teach the approximately 75 students enrolled in the school. The Right to Education Act mandates a teacher student ratio of 1:30.
To add to their workload, the head teacher of the School, Kuldeep Kumar Kurre was repeatedly sent off on Census duty in the period between 2010 and 2011. This left the students in a lurch as their annual syllabus was incomplete and they had difficulties giving their exams.
In India it is mandatory for teachers to assist in Census duty and in operations such as the elections. Increasingly there is a realisation that these duties come in the way of the work the teachers are actually hired to do. In 2011, there were 1,800 teachers on Census duty across the country.
Bhan Sahu regularly visits Machandur and is familiar with the primary school and its teachers. On one particular visit she found Bitika Bambeswar, the teacher there distraught.
“Exams were coming up, the syllabus wasn’t complete and she was the only one there to take the classes as the other teacher was away on Census duty. I knew immediately that I had to produce this video. When I see situations like this, I can completely identify with it as I am a mother of two children who go to government schools and face similar problems,” explains Bhan.
Once published, the video was screened in the village and taken to various officials including the Education Officer and the Block Education Officer. Kuldeep Kumar Kurre, personally put the issue forward to the B.E.O.
When faced with the situation, the officers admitted that they had been unaware of the problems being faced by staff at the primary school. They were very supportive of the teachers and promised to hire additional staff. On 8th September 2012 Savitri joined the team at Machandur Primary School. Bitika and Kuldeep are all smiles as they can now give due attention to all their students.
“On one hand the government has the RTE and they put in a lot of much money in schemes and in building schools. But then they make things like Census duty compulsory, and since it is their job (the government’s), it has to be done. The teachers do pass children from one class to the next no matter how they perform in an examination but how does that help? You can show on paper that a child is moving forward though actually there is no enhancement in their learning. In this case, it is not an errant teacher who causes the problem but the very system. And that needs to be fixed,” says Bhan.