A Plus Once student of a government higher secondary school in Ponmundam, near Tirur in Malappuram district began a hunger strike on Monday morning on the school premises demanding basic facilities in his school.
The boy, Shahal, was shifted to a government hospital in Tirur and later to a private hospital in Kottakkal when his condition worsened. He had been continuing with his protest until the District Collector, sensing the tense situation, met and convinced him to withdraw the strike promising to meet the demands put forward by him. The 130-year old school lacks the basic facilities like toilet and laboratory with a shortage of permanent teaching staff. About 2000 children study in the school which is located on a 20 cent property with classes 1 to 12 thickly packed in a limited space. The remaining classes are conducted at rented buildings and the high school classes in small rooms at the upstairs of shops with some batches not even having rented buildings for classrooms. Most of the teachers are employed on a contract or daily wage basis. The attempts by the school authorities to pay the teaching staff by collecting money from the students were halted after the protests.
P. K. Abdu Rabb, Minister for Education, hails from Malappuram district. The Minister didn’t bother to visit Shahal when he had turned up for a program near the venue of strike. Most of the government schools have the same plight as the government school in Ponmundam lacking in basic facilities and having a shortage of teachers. Such schools are seen more in Malabar districts and among them Malappuram district stands out. The district also ranks low in the list of schools with a decent ‘children-schools with toilet facilities’ ratio. Not only do the Minister and his party members address these issues but they also mistreat those who point them out. The Allahabad High Court on 19 th August issued an unusual mandate of government school education for the children of government employees including those in the judiciary and people’s representatives. The Bench headed by Justice Sudhir Agarwal said that the government employees should enroll their children in government schools starting from the next academic year and has ordered the Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary to submit a report within six months about the steps taken to implement the order. All these are instances of negligence on the part of government and a stark reminder that Kerala too is no different from other states. One has yet to see if the government would take pain to pay a visit to Shahal and work towards improving the condition of government run schools.