Surrounded by Mortuary, Coffin Shops, Open Dhalao (Garbage Disposal Bin) and Desi Liquor Shop, MCD Primary School, Bulevard Road, near Tis Hazari Courts, Delhi with 37 students of classes I to V, one teacher, unhygienic toilets, broken classroom door, dirty washbasin with broken tap, and unfinished blackboard is an example of utter neglect on the part of the government of their own schools. In other words, the government is violating with impunity the fundamental and human rights to education of the children of this country.
As a neighborhood school friend, I took the opportunity to visit this municipal school on 22.04.2006. The official school timings are 7.30 am to 12.30 pm. I reached the school at 8.30 am and found that all the students were just playing in the school compound and the Headmaster of the school was just sitting in a classroom and was busy with writing in a register, unmindful of what the students were doing. On that day, only 22 students were present in the school. On seeing me, he became alert and immediately called the students to assemble in the classroom. The students followed this directive and assembled in one classroom in which the Headmaster was sitting. As there is only one primary teacher posted in the school, all the primary classes are held in one classroom. A little later, I realized that the children were playing in the compound for the obvious reason that the solitary teacher had not yet come to the school. I just noted these facts in my diary. I also took photographs of all the students of different classes sitting in one classroom.
The Headmaster did not want to waste any more time. On one hand, he ordered the attendant for a cup of tea and some biscuits for me and on the other hand, he asked the students to line up in the corridor for Morning Prayer. On completing the Morning Prayer, the students were asked to do yoga exercises. It is interesting to note that the Headmaster who apparently did not know any thing about yoga was instructing the students to do yoga exercises. The Morning Prayer and the so-called yoga exercises lasted for about 10 minutes and all the children were again back in the classroom. It was now 9 am and the solitary teacher arrived in the school on the motorbike. I simply noted his arrival time in my diary.
The teacher was upset on seeing me in the school. After arrival of the teacher, the Headmaster asked the students of the classes IV and V to go to the other classroom. The students of classes I to III remained in the classroom where the Headmaster was sitting and the students of classes IV and V moved to the other classroom with the solitary teacher. The studies started in the classrooms. I stayed in the school for another half an hour and then left for my office.
This was my second visit to this neighborhood school. My first visit was on 04.03.2006. On that day, I had noted that the entire sewerage system in the school was in bad shape and there was a foul smell in the entire school premises. I also noted that three of the classrooms were used to store road repair material. The open dhalao was just in the front of the school gate. The garbage in the open dhalao was overflowing up to the gate of the school. On the same day, I brought to the notice of the school authorities about sewerage system and other problems noticed by me during my visit to the school. On my next visit on 22.4.2006, I found that the sewerage system was put to order and the road repair material was removed from the three classrooms.
All the students of the school belong to underprivileged sections of society. On 05.03.2006, I visited the locality from where these students come from and met the parents of some of these students. I found that though the parents had got their children enrolled in the school, they were indifferent to the education of their children. In such a situation, the students are totally dependent on the school. If the school authorities are also indifferent to the education of the students, one can imagine the fate of these students.
The school authorities cannot absolve themselves from their paramount responsibility of providing good quality education to the children merely for the reason that the parents are not taking interest in the education of their children. It is the constitutional mandate against the school authorities to device ways and means to ensure good quality education to all the children of this country. This school in the India’s Capital is lacking in all respects. The environment both in side and out side of the school is totally inappropriate for the education of the children.
The words in the preamble of the Constitution “ We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizen: Justice, social, economic and political: Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; Equality of status and opportunity; and to promote among them all Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation” have no meaning for these children. Similarly, the social justice philosophy of the Constitution and the fundamental right to free and compulsory education guaranteed to every child under Article 21-A of the Constitution have no meaning for these children. What is ironical is that though these children get the opportunity to go to school but they are uncared.
The Supreme Court of India in a recent decision in case of State of Bihar vs Project Uchcha Vidya, Sikshak Sangh (2006) 2 SCC 545 observed, “Imparting of education is a sovereign function of the State. Article 21-A of the Constitution envisages that children of age group 6 to 14 have a fundamental right to education. Clause 3 of Article 15 of the Constitution envisages special protection and affirmative action for women and children.” The tale of this neglected school negates all claims of the government of providing education to the children of the masses and addressing the issue of child labour.
The government schools are the only hope for the children of the masses and therefore, these needs to be set right. Civil Society has not only the role but also an obligation to work for the betterment of the government schools and for complete abolition of child labour. The community intervention in the school education is the only mantra to improve these schools and to abolish the child labour.
By Ashok Agarwal