Hundreds of agitated parents, children and concerned citizens took out a rally and staged a dharna outside the Block office in Manika (Latehar district) today to protest against the rampant shortage of school teachers in the area. Almost half of all government primary schools in Manika Block have a single teacher, according to the Jharkhand government’s own data.
The situation is getting worse year after year as school teachers retire without any new appointments being made. School teachers have not been appointed in Jharkhand since 2016. The state government keeps promising to appoint teachers, but it is yet to get its act together. The latest attempt to appoint teachers was stayed by the courts after Cluster Resource Persons (CRPs) and Block Resource Persons (BRPs) filed a petition demanding a reserved share of teacher appointments.
Meanwhile, school education in Manika is in the doldrums. Single-teacher schools have almost 50 pupils on average, and some (like Bichlidag, Ravidas Tola and Jamuna) have more than 100. Three upper-primary schools, with 141 pupils on average, also have a single teacher. Even in schools with more than one teacher, the pupil-teacher ratio is rarely below 30, as prescribed under the Right to Education Act.
Field visits in the run-up to the dharna revealed a dismal atmosphere in the single-teacher schools. Typically, all the children are herded in a single classroom. Quite often, teaching is reduced to copying exercises, if there is any teaching at all. Single teachers are often busy with record-keeping and other non-teaching work. In Ravidas Tola, a Dalit basti in Kope gram panchayat, the Brahmin teacher has hired a local woman to teach on his behalf while he sits in the headmaster’s cabin. In many single-teacher schools, it was found that even children studying in Class 5 were unable to read.
After the rally, the demonstrators invaded the Block office in Manika and held a public meeting inside the Block office itself. Parents and children from about 10 of the villages with a single-teacher school spoke and expressed their frustration with the schooling system. Among them was Dhaneswar Singh from Jamuna, who said, “the government is making fools of us, unless we come together we won’t be able to change the situation”. James Herenj explained that schooling gets little attention from politicians because it is a children’s issue and children have no voice. Many parents were worried about how their children would manage in the future without education.
Shyama Singh from Sadhwadhi then read out an appeal to Chief Minister Hemant Soren, released today on behalf of parents and children of Manika Block (copy attached). More than 250 participants signed the letter on the spot.
Shortage of school teachers is a huge problem across Jharkhand. Almost one third of all government primary schools have a single teacher according to official UDISE data. The recent Gloom in the Classroom report found that found that only half of the primary schools and just 20% of upper-primary schools in Jharkhand have a pupil-teacher ratio below 30.
This event was organised by Gram Swaraj Mazdoor Sangh in Manika. About 500 participants came more than 10 villages including Bichlidag, Dasdih, Dumbi, Ejamar, Jamuna, Karmahi, Kutmu, Nagta, Pokhari and Ravidastola. Similar agitations against single-teacher schools and teacher shortages have taken place earlier this year in Garu and Giridih. More are being planned. Will the Jharkhand government listen? Time will tell.