Teacher away, school guard takes lessons

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Unmindful of the samacheer kalvi debate raging across the state of Tamil Nadu, watchman P.Perumal teaches Tamil, even Maths and Science, to the students in a primary school in Dharmapuri.

And his is not an isolated case of odd men getting into strange vocations. Several instances of watchmen or cooks taking lessons for the students in the government tribal residential (GTR) schools prevail in Dharmapuri while their teachers are away busy in their ‘outside meetings’, an euphemism for attending to private business chores.

As the lone teacher-cum-headmaster Sadiq Basha at this GTR school in Suriyakadai had gone to Dharmapuri, about 70 kms away, to buy provisions for the hostel kitchen, Perumal was conducting the class when this correspondent visited the school of 28 tribal kids on Monday.

And since cook Lakshmi leaves early evening to catch the last bus out, he must also cook the dinner for the children and guard the premises in the night.

"I had studied up to second class and even that was some 30 years ago. I am trying my best to explain lessons to these children. They are very patient", said Perumal, looking a bit sheepish in his avatar as teacher.

Not just the tribal schools of Dharmapuri, several schools across the state lack adequate number of teachers and basic amenities such as toilets and class furniture.

"Little kids walk even a couple of miles to reach the school because there are no bus facilities. Often there are no proper roads", says A. Devaneyan, an educationist in Chennai, who has been campaigning for ‘right to education’ (RTE) in rural areas.

"Rather than attending to these critical issues, we are spending much time and money fighting unnecessary cases in the courts", he rues.

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