Tribal students’ in-house schooling upsets academics

Tribal students’ in-house schooling upsets academics
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Leaves them isolated, upsets teacher pupil ratio

IRSHAD KHAN

SRINAGAR: The orders of ex-Education Minister, Chowdhry Zulfikar – to shift scores of tribal students from several schools across the state to Gujjar and Bakerwal hostels for ‘in-house schooling’ in the middle of the current academic session – have hugely upset the Teacher-Pupil Ratio (TPR) at the respective schools besides isolating the shifted students from their previously familiar school atmosphere.
At some hostels, the shifted students have also been put to study under inadequate infrastructure at already overcrowded hostels.
In early June this year, Zulfikar had “verbally”, as per school teachers, ordered shifting of Gujjar and Bakerwal students studying in classes 6th to 8th from several middle and high schools in the state to the respective hostels meant for students from the communities in each district.
Although students from the tribal community have been living at the hostels since their inception in 1994, Zulfikar issued orders for starting “in-house schooling” for the students of classes 6th to 8th only this June.
The schools have deputed teachers to teach the students in-house at the hostels, but they say that instead of doing any good, the decision has backfired in many ways.
To comply with Zulfikar’s orders, as many as 50 students belonging to the tribal community out of the total enrolment of 80 had to be shifted from Boys Middle School, Budgam to the hostel, a school teacher said.
The shift, he said, has reduced the student-teacher ratio to less than half.
“Before the shift, we had 13 teachers for an enrolment of 80 students, but we are now 10 teachers to teach a meagre 30 students,” said the teacher.
The teacher said that they have sent three teachers to the hostel to teach the students shifted there.
Criticising Zulfikar’s decision, the teacher said that it had “isolated” the students of an already deprived community.
“They (the tribal students) had mingled with the local students over the years, but due to their segregation, they are back to square one,” said the teacher.
“The students wept when they were shifted to the hostel. Even now, they feel caged within its walls,” he added.
This however was not Chowdhry Zulfikar’s impression. He claims the decision to shift the students was made to provide them a more homogeneous environment.
“Since they are coming from remote and backward areas, they cannot acclimatise with other students in the school,” Zulfikar told Kashmir Reader.
According to observers, however, the move was undertaken “in order to build a strong base” of the shifted students.
The “unilateral” decision made “in a hurry”, as per another teacher, was made at a time when the Term 1 examination of the students was around the corner.
“It hampered the studies of the students, that too at a time when the Term 1 was about to start in late June. The students could not prepare well either at the school or at the hostel,” a teacher at Boys Middle School Jawahar Nagar told Kashmir Reader.
The teacher said that 45 students have been shifted to the Gujjar and Bakerwal Hostel Tulsi Bagh in the city.
Courtesy Zulfikar’s “verbal orders”, the students now have to walk kilometres back and forth from the hostel to the middle school in Jawahar Nagar just “for mid-day meals”, the teacher said.
“They should have been at least kept here for the whole academic year,” he suggested.
While the middle school was constructing additional accommodation for the students on the one hand, a teacher called it an “irony” that the students were shifted to the hostel on the other.
From Government Boys and Girls Middle Schools Tulsi Bagh, 23 and 42 students respectively were shifted to two Gujjar and Bakerwal hostels in Srinagar, thus upsetting the TPR at the institutions, teachers said.
As of June, after the shifting of tribal students to the hostel, Boys Middle School Tulsi Bagh had 16 teachers for approximately as many students (17).
Mocking at Zulfikar’s “hasty” decision, a teacher at Boys Middle School Tulsi Bagh called it a “Tughluqi order”.
The teacher also said that the students had to come to the school from the hostel only to have the mid-day meals.
The students too told Kashmir Reader that they felt “caged” at the hostel, which did not provide them the formal school atmosphere. At the hostel in Budgam, the students also complained of a space crunch.
“They brought us here from far-flung areas for schooling, but we are stuck here,” a student at the Tulsi Bagh hostel rued.
“Tell them to take us back to school,” another student told this reporter.

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