VELLORE: In a step in the wrong direction, the government high school in Peenjamandai has been forcing 20 Class 8 students to use a narrow staircase in the school as their classroom. Three benches have been squeezed into the staircase landing, as the school only has four classrooms to accommodate the 157 students in Classes 6 to 10.
The tribal area also houses a government-run primary school, where the situation is much worse. While 90 students from Classes 1 to 3 are packed into the first of three classrooms at the school, the second one has to fit in 40 kids from Classes 4 and 5 together. The third room is reserved for storing surplus benches donated by Anakkattu MLA A P Nandakumar.
When TNIE visited the high school recently, it became immediately apparent that the shortage of classrooms was just one among many of its shortcomings. It lacked a science lab, playground, library, and a midday meal centre. Authorities have also paid no heed to the long-pending demand to appoint a physical training teacher here. Vasanthi, a Class 9 tribal student, said her school team made it as far as the zonal-level interschool Kho-Kho competition semi-finals.
“The students are very talented and committed. If only we had a PT master and a playground, we could have worked toward a bright future in sports,” she added. The Class 10 students, who have to appear for their board exams in eight months, have still not had any hands-on training for their practicals, for want of a science laboratory at the school. Absurdly, the government has appointed a lab assistant for this non-existent lab. Come noon, the children must walk all the way to the primary school in the same area for the midday meal, as their own school lacks a meal centre.
‘School achieved 100% pass last year, TN should consider students’ welfare’
Meanwhile, the nearby primary school has a strength of 126 students, who had to be accommodated in its three classrooms. Even as the teachers and students were making do with the bare minimum, the local MLA provided the school with a huge number of benches, resulting in one of the three classrooms being exclusively assigned to store the benches.
Though TNIE tried to speak with a teacher, she couldn’t spare time as she had to single-handedly manage all students from Classes 1 to 3. Sources said the authorities could clear the space covered with asbestos on the school premises to construct two more classrooms. Srinivasan, a member of Tamil Nadu Scheduled Tribe Malayali Peravai, said, “The high school achieved a remarkable 100% pass last year, which reveals the students’ interest to learn. So, the state government must ensure that these children are provided with basic necessities.
Since there is no school having Classes 11 and 12 in the hillock region, some students don’t continue their studies after Class 10. Hence, the government could also consider upgrading the high school into a higher secondary school.”
Speaking to TNIE, Vellore Chief Education Officer Manimozhi S said, “Usually we conduct surveys to identify the schools that lack basic amenities and submit the report to the government. We will check whether these schools are included in the list and if not, necessary action will be taken.” District Collector P Kumaravel Pandian has also promised to address the shortage of classrooms issue.