Teacher shortage affects classes in Bitijor school

2019-08-06

The Kathmandu Post


Bitijor Primary School has five grades, 52 students, one teacher and two classrooms. All 52 students spend their days crammed inside two classrooms—one for grade one to three and the other for grade four to five, according to Junu Shrestha, the only teacher employed at the school. Shrestha was appointed under the relief quota.

According to Shrestha, the school at Kubinde in Golanjor Rural Municipality, Sindhuli, used to have two teachers until one of them, a temporary appointee, resigned after he failed the permanent teacher job test conducted by the Teachers Service Commission some four months ago.

“The crisis started right after he resigned,” said Shrestha. “I couldn’t take the classes alone. There was no option other than gathering all the students in a single class.” To fill the shortage of teachers, even the school helper, Yadav Thakur, started taking classes. Trishna Kunwar, a volunteer teacher from Balbikash Kendra, also teaches at the school but only part time.

“After the school administration sensed trouble, it made a decision to employ the helper as a teacher adding Rs 3,000 to his salary,” Shrestha said. “Thakur takes over the classes once Kunwar leaves after the mid-day break.”

Shrestha added that she herself couldn’t devote all of her time to the school. “Often, I have to travel to the district headquarters to attend training and workshops,” said Shrestha. “During those times, it’s Yadav who takes charge. All the students are taught in a single class.”

Students complain that classes are so crowded and noisy that they can barely concentrate on their lessons. “It’s troublesome to sit in a single room with so many other students,” said Mekh Bahadur Tamang, a fifth-grader. “When madame is in front of the class teaching, quarrels break out among the backbenchers and then there is wailing and crying. It’s difficult to concentrate.”

Tamang also complained about the irregular pattern of the lessons. “One day, we are taught arithmetic, the next day, Nepali grammar,” Tamang said. “We know only a bit of both. It’s hard to jump from one to another.”

Despite all the odds, the students, by and large, have been regular to the classes. The attendance improved after the rural municipality introduced free lunch program for primary-level students.

“It’s up to the school management committee to appoint new teachers in coordination with the local unit, but nothing has been done despite repeated requests,” Shrestha said. The Post reached out to Pushpa Bahadur Karki, chairperson of Gonjalor Rural Municipality, to inquire about the current fix. He said, “We are committed to appointing a new teacher soon, the school will function smoothly then,” he said.