For countless people like Kamble and Jadhav, night schools seem to be the only viable option to improve their future prospects. These schools, however, are now being destroyed by a toxic combination of budget cuts and political neglect.
Over the years, night schools in Maharashtra have seen neglect with many having no teachers or support staff. A number of schools are also facing problems of paying rent for hired spaces from which they operate.
“These schools have been bridging the gap in society by providing opportunities to the have-nots. But now, unfortunately, nobody is paying attention to them,” said Ashok Belsare, a member of Shikshak Bharti Teachers’ Association and advisor to the Night School Headmasters’ Association.
“Demographic of students of night schools is such that it requires more experienced and knowledgeable teachers who will help them understand the concepts sooner and prepare for studies. A night school has responsibilities like every other regular school and more but half the time in comparison. Many of the students are much older in age and are coming back to studying after a long gap. This requires expertise in teaching. But currently, night schools are practically running without teachers, forget experts or qualified ones,” added Belsare, who worked as a principal at Pragati Night School, Saat Rasta, for 32 years. He is now part of an organisation which runs Unnati Night School in Kalyan.
Belsare said his school is running with just one teacher who is juggling the roles of teacher, principal, clerk and peon. Multiple applications to the government requesting more teachers have led to no results.
Even the appointment of teachers is done in a haphazard manner. For example, a science teacher might get appointed in a place that has the requirement for an English teacher.
At Shivaji Night School in Bhoiwada, as many as 40 students are dependent on just one teacher – J Patale. Patale is a language teacher with expertise in Marathi but the curriculum has nine subjects, including science and mathematics. “I use video tutorials available in the public domain for mathematics and science. But just watching videos is not enough; students do have doubts. Thankfully some old/retired teachers have agreed to stay connected with students through WhatsApp groups for solving doubts,” said Patale.