Srinagar: In a distressing development that continues to plague rural education, the lopsided Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR) in schools remains a persistent issue, severely impacting the quality of education for schoolchildren.
Despite recent efforts by the School Education Department (SED) to address this problem, many rural schools are still struggling with a shortage of teaching staff and a lack of basic facilities.
While some schools find themselves with a surplus of teaching staff, others in rural areas are grappling with significant teacher deficiencies, jeopardizing the academic prospects of students.
The Annual Transfer Drive (ATD), aimed at alleviating PTR imbalances, has not delivered the expected results, leaving rural schools particularly understaffed.
One glaring example of this issue is the Government Primary School (GPS) Chopan Pati in the Sultan Pora area of Zone Chandoosa in Baramulla. With a student population of 131 spanning Kindergarten to Class 5, this school is staffed with only four teachers, highlighting a glaring disparity.
The consequences of such lopsided PTR ratios are felt most acutely in rural schools, where under staffing has led to a decline in student enrollment. This decline poses a significant challenge for the government, which actively promotes annual enrollment drives to boost student numbers across all schools.
A striking case is the Government Middle School (GMS) Kokernag in Zone Bidder, Anantnag district. This school, housing just 22 students, currently has five teachers.
Notably, there are no students enrolled in class 5 and class 6. The school operates from an underutilized prefab structure that previously belonged to a nearby higher secondary school.
Darshan Kumar, the head of the institution, revealed that the enrollment of the school was more than 40 students when it was functioning from rented accommodation.
"However, the decision to relocate the school to a prefab hut at the higher secondary caused decline in the enrollment and there are less new admissions as well," he told Greater Kashmir.
Furthermore, the school faces basic infrastructure challenges, including a lack of toilet facilities. "Students are forced to use the toilet block of the higher secondary school, adding to the discomfort and inconvenience," he said.
Kumar emphasized that if the school were provided with proper accommodation, even on rent, it could significantly increase enrollment. He also pointed out that without new admissions in lower classes, the enrollment declines further after class 8 students graduate.
"Once the class 8th students pass their Board exam, the enrolment declines as we do not register new admissions because no student gets attracted to this school as we lack basic facilities here," he said.
Chief Education Officer (CEO) Anantnag, Kamal Kishore Badyal, when contacted, expressed his commitment to addressing the issue. "You have shared the details with me. I will look into the matter," he said.
A school teacher told Greater Kashmir the challenges faced by rural schools in terms of teacher deficiency and basic facilities demand immediate attention from the authorities in the department.
"The Department has taken several initiatives to ensure equal access to quality education in all areas. But rural schools need special attention as the student population is dependent on government schools due to less representation of private schools in remote areas," the teacher said.