The class is in session. And the class is like any other you've seen. Noisy. All eyes are on the teacher and when she writes, all eyes are on the blackboard. Pay attention, if not... the teacher's glare says it all. Every school has its own punishment models. "Stand up on the bench" is ruled out here because there are no benches. Like in any other school the menacing cane serves dual purposes - depending on the circumstances - as a pointer or a symbol of pain.
Teachers at the village school are two types - those who are on the government payroll and those who are sponsored by the school Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). Some years back a campaign was launched by the village folk. The theme was simple. Don't deprive your children from getting basic education. Send them to school. Soon the villagers found a gross misbalance. There were more children and less teaching staff. For sometime they managed with volunteers but that didn't solve the problem.
The PTA discussed the matter and soon concluded they needed more teachers to keep alive the enthusiasm of these children. They approached the concerned government authorities and received a sermon on rules and budget constraints. But such technicalities didn't dampen their spirits. They were a determined lot. So, they developed their own methodology and decided they would sponsor their own teachers to support the existing staff. They'd collect whatever money they could and pay the 'PTA teacher'.
Rajakumari is one such PTA-sponsored teacher. A commerce graduate, she's now studying for a post graduation degree through correspondence. She's been teaching here for three years now and has applied for a bank job. "Once that comes through I'll leave," she says. The salary would be much higher than what the PTA pays. It would also mean that the PTA would need a replacement. A tough task that. For, the PTA can afford to pay only that much, which in itself means scrapping the bottom of the barrel.
Vimala is a Bangalore-trained teacher on government payroll. She got her posting to this school in 1999 but would have preferred a teaching assignment in a school in Dharmapuri town where she lives. However, she doesn't mind it now. She's gaining experience teaching these village kids. Vimala is of the opinion that Government teachers are paid better than teachers in private schools even though the fee structure of the private system is steep.
Parvathi is also a government teacher. She was educated in Krishnagiri and this is her first job. She's been here now for three years and she quite likes it. "The children are enthusiastic and willing to learn," says Parvathi.
The medium of education is Tamil. Children study Maths, Social Studies, Science, Tamil and English is almost like getting it in drips. For, hardly anyone speaks it and in most cases, the teachers too aren't fluent.
Enthusiasm amongst both types of teachers is high. Some like it some don't mind it. But then, the reality is that if teachers leave for "better prospects" how does the show go on?