Sixty-six-year-old N. Subramaniam, resident of Virugambakkam, does a lot of social work for children. He has turned out to be a champion of children studying in village panchayat union elementary schools and corporation and municipality schools.
Children with “gifted parents” are able to avail good education in better private elite schools, he says, adding that they have talented teachers, separate teachers for each subject, neat classrooms with individual chairs and tables, a clean environment, a playground, a library, and recourse to extra-curricular activity. Such children are “blessed”, he says, pointing to the sad condition of children from poor families studying in village panchayat union elementary schools and corporation and municipality primary schools.
These poor children do not have proper clothes to wear, and sufficient, timely or nutritious food to eat. There is no study material available. Although the government has allotted funds to extend various kinds of facilities to improve the condition of the poor children (free education, dresses, midday meals, text books and note books), the concessions hardly reach the children in the manner desired, he says. Sadly, the parents of children in class I (there is no pre-KG, LKG and UKG for them) do not take adequate care of education due to ignorance coupled with poverty.
According to Subramaniam, the teacher-child ratio fixed by the government is 1:40. For example, in a village school with a student strength of around 80 there are usually only two teachers. One would be on leave, leaving the other to handle the 80 students of various standards with different subjects, a practically impossible task. He is for reducing the ratio to 1:20 or 1:25.
During activity-based learning sessions, children sit on the floor as do teachers; the mats they use get worn out soon. To make matters worse, there is lack of drinking water and no proper toilets. Girls suffer badly. Many of such schools are converted into shelters for the homeless during natural calamities and during such days the children do not have any classes. Then, unruly elements take over the premises.
The teachers are not only overburdened with work, they are used to conduct surveys and pitch in for election work etc. The teachers are not well paid either and thus are forced to do additional work.
Subramaniam strongly feels the government has a social responsibility to improve the condition of government schools, especially when students in several of these schools perform very well. Ministers, MPs and MLAs must take time to step into these schools and set right deficiencies/problems, he says.
I have written about Subramaniam’s efforts earlier and tried to highlight the good work he has been doing. If only we had many more Subramaniams who feel the same way and help poor students with free books and stationery on a regular basis. Subramaniam has been silently doing all that ever since he retired from the Railways. May he continue the good work.