Overcrowded classroom, lack of facilities pose challenge to school enrollment campaign



Narayan Dhungana  Ratnanagar, Chitwan, April 30 (RSS): Overcrowded classrooms and lack of facilities at schools has come as a hurdle even as the nationwide school enrollment campaign (second phase) has commenced from today.  The first-phase of the campaign brought total of 439,323 new students to schools and overcrowding of classrooms has posed a challenge to the effectiveness of teaching-learning activities at Rastriya Basic School based in Kalitar of Lothar in Rapti Municipality-3, the remote part of Chitwan district.

The sighting of 50 students sitting together inside a congested room of the school's old building makes anyone else feel suffocating. A pre-nursery classroom capable of accommodating maximum 10-15 students is now occupied by some fivefold more than its capacity. The whole class is handled by one assistant, Maya Praja.  Overcrowded classroom has been really a challenge to quality education at the school where most of the students are from the indigenous Chepang community. 

The school says that lack of required infrastructure such as space (class rooms) and furniture and human resources has barred it from functioning effectively. Division of sections for students is a must.  The scene of an old room furnished with a torn carpet and four tables and 50 children squeezed into a narrow classroom where children are in the position of making simply bodily movement may make any visitor here feel stifling.  

School principal Deepak Kumar Shrestha admitted the school was unable to provide a quality learning atmosphere for children due to lack of required infrastructure.  Last year, the pre-primary class was filled by 19 students; there was not a big problem to handle them, but this year, this number significantly increased. The total number of students (from pre-primary level to class 3) is 162.

The school is making preparations for running grade 4 classes, but no idea how to manage infrastructure and human resources, said a teacher Chitra Bahadur Shrestha. 

According to education regulations, four teachers are required in a school where the number of students surpasses 120. But the school has only two teachers appointed on relief quota. 

If a preprimary class has over 20 students, two assistants are necessary, but the school has failed to manage additional human resources. The District Education Office has not sent teachers as per the quota.  

District Education Officer Manoj Gaire said most of schools in remote areas are in the need of merger due to lack of the (sufficient) number of students, but the case of Rastriya Basic School is different and he was apprised about it recently, pledging to do the needful to address the issue.  

The school has already apprised Rapti Municipality mayor Prabha Baral and Ward no 13 chair Surya Chepang about the problems. Ward chair Chepang said the school where most of the students are from the Chepang community is not able to hire additional teachers through private source. 

On the other hand, the government has not provided sufficient human resource and the effective and quality education always comes under question mark. 

Mayor Baral said the local government is planning to ensure residential education for the Chepang children, hoping that it would help address the issue. The remote area of Chitwan is home to the indigenous Chepang community whose six months are spent in search for food.  

Though the District Education Office claims the 99.50 percent literacy late in the district, dropout rates is equally high in the district.