Lower primary schools have been directed to restart classes but many in Ri-Bhoi are wondering how to do so when they do not have the required teachers, a situation that could put the futures of thousands of students in jeopardy.
Highland Post visited one such school today in Raitong, which has been without teaching staff since January after the school’s two teachers retired.
“We are sad and, at the same time, in the dark,” Rangbah Shnong Emel Wahphlang said. “The students and the parents are still waiting for the appointment of new teachers.”
Sadly, this is not an isolated reality. According to sources, there are 15 lower primary schools that do not have teachers in the district, including in Nongkhrah LP School (Nongpoh), Mawbsein (Umroi), Ingsaw (Mawhati), Umtasor-Mawdkhar (Umsning), Raitong (Mawhati), Nongkya (Mawhati), Mawkba (Mawhati), Lymphuid (Mawhati), Korhadem (Mawhati), Ïamkhon Thaïang (Mawhati), Nongbirlum (Nongpoh), Nongsier Jirang (Jirang), Umkrem Diengkhong (Jirang), Ranibari (Jirang) and Pynker B (Jirang).
Raitong is a village of almost 300 households with a population of around 1,600. It is part of Mawhati Assembly constituency.
The President of the school managing committee, Hasting Roy Lyngdoh, explained that the situation was not ideal even before the retirement of the teaching duo. These two teachers had responsibility for 200 students, putting the student-teacher ratio at 100:1.
“The student-teacher ratio did not add up. How can one teacher effectively teach around 100 students at a time?” he asked.
Physically, conditions at the institution are far from perfect. A close observation reveals that the school buildings are dilapidated and parents complain that their children face difficulties, especially during the rainy season when the roof leaks. The school is run from a ramshackle shed and does not have enough benches for the students. Even the blackboards have seen much better days and are crying out for replacement.
Wahphlang informed that he has learnt that two teachers from Raitong cleared the Meghalaya Teacher Eligibility Test, which the government has made mandatory. The headman opined that the two should be immediately appointed to the school.
Education officer Edmund Marten, meanwhile, informed that the department is in the process of fixing the problem of teacher allocation. Marten explained that while schools like that in Raitong do not have any teachers, there are some schools that have more educators than is required.
“In such a situation, there will be adjustments of teachers to schools where there are more students,” he added.
The irony of the situation is that, until this rationalization is carried out, many schools will not have any teachers to teach despite being directed by the Education Department to reopen.