Aurahi Middle School in Purnea, around 300 km away from the state capital, with 672 students has only seven teachers – one teacher for every 100 students. Teachers here often take combined classes for two sections at a time to cater to as many students as possible.

“After remaining closed for long due to coronavirus, as the school opened very few students turned up for classes. Hence, there is no problem at the moment. But the problem is bound to arise once all the students enrolled with us come to attend the school,” said Mangaldev Modi, the headmaster of the school.

According to Mangaldev, his school needs at least 12 teachers to cater to all the 672 students. He is serving as the headmaster of this school since 2016. Before his elevation to the post, he was teaching in a primary school.

“Ever since I took charge of the school, not a single teacher has been appointed,” he disclosed.

The Aurahi middle school is not an exception. Almost all the schools in the state are facing an acute shortage of teachers. Be it primary, middle or plus two school, shortage of teachers is common to all.

Worst teachers-student ratio
The Union Human Resources Development Ministry, in response to a query,  had informed the Lok Sabha in November 2019, that there were 48,531 posts of teachers in secondary schools in Bihar. Of these, 17,166 posts are still lying vacant.

Besides, there are a total of 28,160 teachers’ posts in higher secondary out of which 16,742 or roughly 59.45 percent posts are vacant. In all, 33,908 posts, including that of secondary and higher secondary teachers, are vacant in the state. The figure is the highest among all the states in the country.

Conceding the shortage of teachers in the state assembly on 22 November 2019, Education Minister Vijay Kumar Chaudhary had admitted that as many as 3,15,778 teachers’ posts were vacant in Bihar.

The poor teacher-student ratio is adversely affecting education in Bihar.

In the year 2019, the adjusted net enrolment ratio in class I to VIII was 99.62, which came down to 86.54 last year, according to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)-3 report of NITI Aayog published recently.

The Right to Education Act 2009 says there should be one teacher for 30 students at the primary level and one teacher for 35 students at the upper primary level. But going by the SDG-3 report there is one teacher for every 58 students at the secondary level (9th and 10th) schools.

Bihar could secure only 29 points scores in overall education in SDG-3 report which is the lowest in the country.

Purnea’s Shyama High School, Bhatotar, with classes from 9th to 12th, has just 12 teachers for 1,100 students – one teacher for 92 students. Being lone plus-two school in an area of 10 square kilometers, the school accommodates the highest number of students.

The school’s headmaster, Manzoor Alam, says, “In the last 4-5 years, two teachers have left the school. But no new teacher has been appointed by the Education Department for their replacement. Due to the shortage of teaching staff, we are finding it hard to teach the students, but no one listens to us.”

Recruitment only on paper
It is not that the government is not aware of the shortage of teachers in the state. But so far, it has not gone beyond making hollow announcements to tide over the crisis. In July 2019, the state government had announced that it would appoint 40,000 teachers for secondary and plus two and 1 lakh teachers for primary schools. But this announcement could not get off the ground.

Apart from this, the government had also announced the appointment of 94,000 teachers. The selection process went off well, but soon the matter went to Patna High Court. Since then, the matter is hanging fire due to legal and official wrangling.

Now, the Bihar government has, once again, made an announcement that it would appoint one lakh school teachers. But no one is quite optimistic about the announcement. If the teachers are to be believed till the completion of the recruitment process, no one should expect much from this announcement as such announcements made in the past have never been implemented on the ground.

Officials from the Education Department didn’t come up for clarification on the issue despite repeated calls made by this correspondent.

Education on ‘contract’
In the midst of all this, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led NDA Government has set a strange trend in the education system of Bihar – abolition of the permanent posts of teachers. This is continuing for the last 15 years.

In January 2006, after a meeting with the officials of the Education Department, the government ordered recruitment of 5,00,000 teachers on a contract basis to fill the vacancies. Later, a huge scam was unearthed in the recruitment process under the mukhiyas who were entrusted with the task. However, contractual appointments have become a norm.

There is no longer a regular post for teachers in the Education Department. Whenever a permanent teacher retires, the government recruits another on a contract basis for replacement.

An appointment on contract means the teachers won’t get the facilities that permanent teachers enjoy. State Secretary of Primary Secondary Teachers Association Rakesh Kumar Bharti said, “All the new teachers reinstated at primary level are contractual. There is no such system in any other state of the country. The fact of the matter is that education is not a priority with the Bihar Government.”

Speaking on the state of education in the state, Markandey Pathak, president of the TET/ STET Association of Employed Teachers, said, “School education in Bihar is at its worst.”

“There are only six physics teachers in the entire state. The number of chemistry teachers is around 100. Similarly, there is a severe shortage of teachers for other subjects,” he elaborated.

He further said, “Of all the teachers in secondary schools, hardly 1,000 teachers are permanent, the rest are on contract. In the times to come, not a single school teacher will be permanent in Bihar.”

Pandey sees a conspiracy of the government to give the education into private hands. The appointment of teachers on contract, he says is a step in this direction. He lamented that many schools, which have not appointed teachers, have been given plus-two status due to which the students are not able to study properly.

This, he says is a ploy to instill disillusionment in the students with the government schools. This disillusionment will serve the government as an alibi to hand over the schools to private players.

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The opinion expressed in the article is of the writer. Writer is a freelance journalist/journalist based in Delhi

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