For the past 4 days the Sarpanch of Gundal village in Telangana, Pushpa Kumari, took on the additional responsibility of teaching students of her village as well as governing. This was not a voluntary service or done to merely fulfill some wish of hers to teach. This was her effort to ensure that children donâ€™t drop out from school.
After the teachers in Gundal government primary school in Chevella mandal got transferred to other villages and cities recently, the school stopped functioning. In addition to the teachers, the Mandal education officer too was transferred, worsening the situation.
The school has 68 students and Pushpa has been trying to retain them in classes so that they wouldnâ€™t lose interest in their studies and stop coming to school.
She has been going to the school, along with her kids who study there, and teaches until 4pm.
Speaking to TNM she said, â€śItâ€™s been four days since I took on the role of a teacher. I have been teaching them Telugu, English and basic Mathematics.â€ť
Expressing her helplessness, she said, â€śIf I donâ€™t take these classes, children will lose interest in studies. I am taking these classes only to ensure that they donâ€™t drop out of school. I have a lot of work at home and do other administrative work as well, but I canâ€™t leave the students in a lurch.â€ť
A crisis is being seen across the state, with many schools being deprived of teachers due to numerous transfers taking place, according to child rights activists.
The MV Foundation, an NGO engaged in childrenâ€™s education, has stated that nearly 63 schools across the state have not been functioning for the past one week, as the schools lack teachers. The organization suspects that the numbers could be higher, but they donâ€™t have volunteers in all the villages to check.
R Venkat Reddy, National Convenor of MV Foundation said that an estimated 7,500 students belonging to the marginalized communities of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, Backward Caste and other minorities have been facing the brunt of the poor infrastructure of the administration of the Education Department.
â€śThe ill fated education policies and plans of the government have created new social marginalization. The children who wonâ€™t be affected by these policies are children of bureaucrats or politicians, only but the poor and marginalized have to suffer. This exhibits the apathy towards poor and voiceless,â€ť Reddy lamented.
Blaming the ineptness of the authorities he said, â€śThe District Education Officer should have ensured that none of the schools were affected by the transfers. But for many days now, the students havenâ€™t been taught anything because of the ongoing transfers. So many schools are now not functioning. It will take us at least one more month to recruit Vidya Volunteers (temporary teachers) Soon after that schools will be closed due to festival holidays like Ganesh Chaturthi and Dassera. This tragic.â€ť
TNM tried contacting Ranga Reddy District Education Officer, K Satyanarayana Reddy to obtain an official list of the schools with no teachers and to hear of their plans to handle the crisis. However, the DEO was unavailable despite numerous attempts.