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When the results of the SSLC examination were announced back in May, BBMP schools in the city had fared so poorly it was almost as if the Palike itself had flunked the public examination. The thirty-three high schools under the Palike secured a pass percentage of 33 per cent -- its most abysmal result in the last few years. To put this figure in perspective, the state average was 68 per cent -- more than double of what the BBMP schools secured this year, and a far cry from the ambitious target of 75 percent set in the 2009-10 BBMP budget.

Mid-day meals being served to students at CHS Shivajinagar. Pic: Sriram V.

These dismal results have come about despite the Palike spending Rs 32 crores on all of its 133 schools during 2009-10. Many believe that the per child expenditure at BBMP schools is nearly double that of schools under the state education department -- a study done a few years ago by Akshara Foundation found that the then BMP spends Rs 10,370 per child, while the state education department spends about Rs 6,500 per child.

Though SSLC results are not the sole criterion by which to judge how the Palike runs all their 133 schools, it is emblematic of the negligence that these schools have faced for the past few years. Here's a look at some of the problems.

Teachers

If there is one single reason to pin down the poor academic performance of BBMP schools, it would have to be teachers. As the 2009-10 budget documents show, there are about 326 teaching posts that have remained vacant in BBMP schools. That is almost nearly half of the sanctioned teaching posts at the BBMP.

To meet the shortage of teaching staff, BBMP has been hiring retired teachers and temporary teachers on a contract basis at a fraction of the salaries of regular teachers. The effect of these unfilled posts is there to be seen. For instance, the Corporation High School (CHS) at Malleswaram, has only three out of its nine teaching posts filled. This school recorded a pass percentage of 30 pc in this year's SSLC examination.

A Mathematics teacher at Corporation Malleswaram High School teaching a 9th standard class. Here, both Kannada and English medium students study together in the same class. Pic: Shamsheer Yousaf.

The lack of qualified and appropriate teachers is also visible in several other ways. At CHS Malleswaram, classes for both English medium and Kannada medium schools are held together for all sections: Class 8, 9 and 10. A teacher at the school, speaking on the condition of anonymity, justified this thus: "Since the syllabus for Science, Math, and Social Science is the same, it makes sense to teach them together. For the language subjects like Kannada and English, what is first language for one set of students is second language for the other".

Appointments lost in red-tape

The process of filling up vacancies has been caught in the bureaucratic red-tape for about four years now. BBMP Additional Commissioner V Ashok, who is in charge of BBMP schools says that that the proposal for filling these posts was sent to the state government way back in 2007. While the green signal was given last year, the recruitment process was delayed due to BBMP elections. "The recruitment process for 301 teachers has been already begun, and it will be completed in another 6 months", he says.

However Palike oficials have another version for the poor performance of BBMP schools. According to Ashok, the reason for poor performance was due to the fact that teachers were busy with election and census duty. He says that though both elections and census duty was held after the exams, the training sessions for these two operations were held during the academic year, particularly between December and March.

CHS Shivajinagar Principal N Raja Reddy. Pic: Sriram V.

School officials also offer another reason for the poor performance.CHS Shivajinagar Principal N Raja Reddy, in his late forties, says that more than staff shortage, his biggest concern is the quality of students coming to the Corporation schools. He says that students who seek admission are those who don't get in anywhere else. "What this has meant is that there a lot of students in our school with out even basic knowledge of the subjects", he adds.

Corporation Girls High School Sriramapuram Headmaster Munishamappa. Pic: Shamsheer Yousaf.

But what makes this argument moot is that despite facing the same problems, there are a few success stories such as the Corporation Girls High School at Sriramapuram. For the past two years, this school has secured a pass percentage of higher than 80 per cent. And this despite 6 out of the sanctioned 18 teaching posts filled with temporary teachers. As headmaster Munishamappa reveals, the school is all geared towards ensuring success. He says that for students in Class 10, they have to attend special classes from 7 am to 10 am, regular classes from 10 am to 4 pm, and special classes again from 4 to 6 pm. "We start these measures right from the first day of the academic year", he says.

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