Government School, Perumbakkam
Mahalaxmi from standard 6 does not like to use the school’s loo to urinate. Instead, she and the other girls in the school prefer going to the bathroom.
That is because the bowl of the toilet is dotted with blood stains, the room stinks, there are pools of liquid along the toilet and a general air of grime. Just outside, a blue plastic bucket outside the toilet overflows with used sanitary pads.
But the teachers insist all is well.“We never compromise on cleanliness,” says Janaki a teacher.
“We have a lady who cleans toilets every day.” The ‘clean’ girls’ toilet cubicles covered with mud had no bucket or mug below the pipe.
The Government School of Perumbakkam is a two-storey building that stands out amidst all the eight-storey residential buildings. With the strength of seven hundred students and a faculty of twenty four, the secondary school has the capacity to accommodate one thousand students. The primary school is a separate wing altogether within the community with a strength of three hundred students.
The school, constructed four years ago, was primarily built to accommodate the children of the evictees. Sundaram Murthy, the headmaster explained, “We enroll students until December as and when they come. This can’t happen in case of those students who are to appear for the board examinations. There have been cases, where, I have had to turn down students who have already settled with their families in Perumbakkam but have to travel back and forth because the centre of examination has to be finalized by the month of January, post which, it cannot be changed.”
An organised system of mid-day meals was being served at the lunch hour. Students at the Secondary school waited for their turn with steel tiffin in their hands. As per the mid-day meal scheme, the sambhar-rice and two boiled eggs covered the diet of the hyperactive students.
Cracking open the eggs and littering the corridor with the shells, two kids hopped to class 6 D. Class 6 has just one desk and bench for 30 students. The kids sit in circles on the floor with their friends, changing their position from sitting, to crouching, to standing every few minutes during class. “They are fresh out of primary school. They may push the furniture onto each other and hurt themselves. So we will give it only when they are a bit older,” Janaki justified.
The classrooms, although not big enough are able to accommodate the teacher and the students, largely because there was hardly any furniture in the classrooms. One of the rooms allotted to standard six, saw the kids occupying spaces on the floor for their lunch break.
The primary school has 316 students. This does not fit the Pupil to Teacher ratio (30:1) prescribed by the Right to Education Act for primary school. There are no subject specific teachers either.
Despite the installation of six computers in the school, students say they have never touched the computer.
The Perumbakkam series of stories have been reported and written by Group E of the ACJ Print batch of 2020.