Reflections of a teacher

Fifteen years ago, I moved to the government school system from teaching English in one of Delhi's leading, private trust-run schools. Looking back, despite some changes, the government school context remains largely uninspiring, except for the children who bring to the job the excitement of discovery and the moments of joy in learning. Even discounting the obvious differences that are bound to exist between the relatively affluent school I was affiliated to, and the government school in a resettlement colony, the state of infrastructure was appalling. In the latter, two toilets, defective and without running water, were meant to serve the needs of 1500 girls between the ages of 10 to 18, at least a fourth of whom would be menstruating on any given day. On most days, the drinking water taps would remain dry, there was no electricity to power fans or lights and students were crammed into makeshift classrooms in corridors and verandas.

Today, thanks to the efforts of parent bodies, NGOs, legal campaigns and a growing awareness of these issues, facilities have improved in a very basic sense in government schools all over. But much more remains to be done. Overcrowding remains a reality, and leads to many kinds of tragedies, the most serious of which is the proclivity towards stampedes. The most recent example was the September 2009 stampede in a government school in a poorer locality of east Delhi, in which five girl students were killed and 27 injured in a melee following rumours of a short circuit after heavy rains.

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Himal Southasian