Uttar Pradesh, which has the country’s largest child population, also has the lowest transition rate from primary to upper primary school.
The walls have been broken and the bricks stolen, the toilets are in bad shape as are the classrooms; vandals have even thrown alcohol bottles inside the campus. This is what a government primary school in Udayganj, Lucknow, looks like. In the midst of this mess are 86 students with only one full-time teacher; the ideal teacher to student ratio under the Right to Education Act of 2009 (RTE) is 1:30. The school is merely two kilometres away from the State Legislative Assembly building.
Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, also has the country’s largest child population. The proportion of children out of school in the state is relatively high, especially for girls; almost 10 percent of girls between the ages of 11-14 are out of school, the highest among all states.
Tannu Sahu is a fifth grade student at the school in Udayganj. When Community Correspondent Madhuri asks her if she uses the school toilets, she says “yes, with reluctance.” Sahu is, unfortunately, one of the thousands of young girls who run the risk of dropping out of school because of the lack or poor conditions of toilets. It is estimated that 23 percent girls, all over India, are out of school by the time they start menstruating.
With just one permanent teacher and little by way of physical infrastructure, academics and learning seem to be on the backburner in this school. Instead, students are made to clean the classrooms and the courtyard. “We are also made to do the dishes after the mid-day meal” says Sahu’s classmate, Manohara Khatun.
“Why would children want to study in a school where they see no future for themselves? The environment here is not conducive to learning,” says Indresh Kumar, an intern volunteering as a teacher. When the children do sit in a classroom to study instead of doing chores, students from different grades are often made to sit together owing to a shortage of classrooms. In Madhuri’s video, two parts of a class are seen learning two different things, probably only leading to chaos.
Kumar and his colleagues carried out a survey in the neighbourhood, asking parents if they would send their children to the said school. The common perception was that there is no learning that takes place in the school, and hence, parents were reluctant to enrol their children.
While this survey was conducted for one school alone, it is worth noting that at 79 percent, Uttar Pradesh also has the lowest transition rate from primary to upper primary schools, and the eighth lowest literacy rate in the country.
The RTE mandates free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14. And Uttar Pradesh has, indeed, seen a leap in school enrolment. But mere enrolment does not amount to attendance and actual learning. While student enrolment is now near-universal, the RTE also espouses quality education through a new set of rules that include class-wise and subject-wise learning outcomes.
But none of these provisions are being adhered to at the Udayganj Primary School. Its proximity to the seat of the state legislature has done nothing to improve its conditions either. Madhuri has approached the Basic Education Officer of Lucknow with the matter, and with her video. “The official said that he was not aware of the situation till he saw my video, he has now said that he will work on it”, she says.
Support Madhuri and the students by calling the Basic Education Officer of Lucknow at +91-9453004167 and apprising him of the situation.
Video by Community Correspondent Madhuri
Article by Alankrita Anand, a member of the VV Editorial Team