East-Bardhaman: For over two months, Ranjana Talukdar has been spending almost six hours at her school alone – she is the lone teacher and has no students.
“I read books to pass time. But it is quite torturous, having to spend almost six hours a daysix days a week like this. I have applied for a transfer. I will leave as soon as it is sanctioned,” said the 50-year-old posted at the Tikarhat Netaji Free Primary School.
Since January 3 this year, when the last student opted for a transfer to another institution, Talukdar has been virtually alone between 10.30am and 4pm from Mondays to Saturdays.
A cook assigned to prepare midday meals leaves in the morning after signing the attendance register at the school, set up in 1972.
When Talukdar joined the school in 2010, there were 38 students, besides two other teachers and one para teacher. Over the eight years, the students kept leaving, as did her colleagues till she was the only one left behind.
Sources said there are three private English medium primary schools and two state-run high schools with primary sections for boys and girls in the vicinity.
According to rules, the government must have a primary school within a kilometre of habitation in rural areas and within 500 metres in urban centres.
According to sources in the district administration, staterun primary schools in urban and semiurban areas in the East Bardhaman district have been facing similar problems becauseof lack of students.
“Guardians prefer to get their children admitted to private schools. Some schools are running with a handful of students, others with none at all,” said an official.
School authorities have identified 33 such schools – with 25 or less students – out of the 2,989 in the district. They are planning tomerge the 33 with nearby schools that have more students. The teachers and other staff will also be transferred.
Sources said the merger, if approved, would help reduce wastage of resources and improvethe quality of education.
“We have sent a proposal to the school education department regarding this (merger) in January this year,” said Narayan Chandra Pal, district inspector of schools (primary education), East Bardhaman.