In this part of the series on changing scenario of primary education system in Bihar, I thought of sharing some personal experiences. Although it is too old to hold relevance in prevailing wave of development, it helps to understand the metamorphosis in process and changes required. For my primary education, I spent first five years of 1990s at a government school in a moderately populated village. This was during one of the darkest phases of misgovernance which state was facing. Fifteen years on lot of things have changed and other needs to be changed. So here I list down some privileged experience as I reminisce my initial school days.
- There were no benches in classrooms and yes, you are right, no desks either. One used to bring gunny bags, HDPE or PP sheets and even carpets were allowed by school authorities, if you have one of acceptable size. Although it was not official, but size of gunny bag wasn’t to be large enough to court envy from classmates, and if someone complained accusing you of encroachment, get ready to get caned. Bringing your own rags to sit was prerequisite of being allowed to attend class with exemption that classes are being held in open (which was usual) where one can use grasses.
- Only one classroom had blackboard which was not so black, and it was not made of board but wall plaster smoothened by cement paste. Two of the classes were combined to run there. Off course they were the senior classes of the school… exclusive benefits of being in senior standard.
- School building and classroom meant enclosures of walls. No, there were no roofs. Although they were built every once in a while but came crumbling down on very first downpour. Winter was not a problem as classes used to be held out in the sun, in summer, sitting arrangement of classes changed with shifting shadows of building walls and trees. When it rained, students were sent home in rain, I hope it was intended to give students a chance to get wet, play with mud and water in puddles on road coming back home, those very moments aimed to give them a memories of a lifetime.
- Classrooms had doors made of spliced bamboo grills and the windows didn’t even had that. In my four years, I never saw a wooden door or anything qualified enough to be called door. Even those bamboo grills will be gone by the vacation.
- There were no toilets. Not even for girls. No, they had one, sort of aqua-privy design, and the Headmaster of school had exclusive, none sharing, non-transferable user right for that, which he used to guard with couple of locks and a chain.
- Exams meant paying exam fees. If you are lucky enough you may go unnoticed and savor the candies that exam fees can buy. Only half of the students attending school are enrolled, others were rogue enough to attend without admission.
- Class registers were maintained for enrolled students. There was a belief that your roll number reflects your rank in class which I doubt, I didn’t saw it changing over the years. Although visiting uncles and neighbor will ask you your roll number in class to judge how you are doing at studies.
- After routine roll call, teachers will doze off amidst students will start ranting from page one of the one or two book they have got. Occasionally, the teachers, one who taught and respected ones will give you class work irrespective of knowing in which standard you are. For them teachers are not meant to correct mistakes, they are to cane students for each mistake made.
- Results day used to be a special day for all. They were declared roll number wise like
Roll 1-20 – 1st Division
Roll 21-40 – 2nd Division & so on.
Students were so smart and hard-working that year after year all of them used to pass. For them, fail was a term that existed only in a dictionary not on their report cards. It was a different story that most of them cannot spell either pass or fail.