Inside a Delhi Government School PTM: Hope, Dreams, and Conversation
Welcome to Mega PTM! A beautifully decorated chart paper pasted on the front gate of the school welcomes parents to the event. As they walk 100 meters into the sprawling, huge, and green campus of a Delhi Government School, a teacher is ready to greet them at the registration counter. With a spark in the eyes, the child accompanying the parents whispers the name of her teacher in her parents’ ears.
"What's your name? In which class does your child study?" asks the teacher at the registration counter. After writing their names in the register, the teacher guides them to the particular class where the class teacher is waiting for the parents.
While walking towards the classroom, the lush green campus of the school draws their attention. Some of them feel compelled to take pictures. The sense of pride and hope that this institution will transform the lives of their children can be noticed in their eyes.
The students take their parents to their respective classrooms. As the parents enter, they find other parents sitting there. The teacher asks them to take a seat and calls the parents in sequence as per the time of their arrival.
"Your child needs to improve in English. Please do not send them to the village this time. We are having Mission Buniyaad classes where special intervention will be made to help your child develop basic skills in reading, writing, and numeracy. Also, try to follow the nutritious food charts that we have provided that will help your child remain healthy," said the teacher.
"Anything that you want to share with us?" asks the teacher.
Pointing towards her child, the parents said, "Padhti nahi hai, mobile dekhti rahti hai (She doesn't study, she keeps looking at her mobile)." The young boy sitting beside the girl child added to the complaint, "Mujhe marti hai (She beats me)!" The girl child in question broadened her eyes and stared at her younger brother as if she wanted to say, "Ghar chal aaj tumhen batati hun (Come home today and I see you)"
Looking at the other teachers in the queue, the teacher intervenes, "She will start studying properly. Please do not send her to the village. After giving this suggestion, the teacher requests the parents to sign the register and calls the other parents. She reminds them, "Please have tea before leaving the school, and there are arrangements for biscuits for the children!"
"How was your experience of coming to school on Sunday?" I asked the parents while they were leaving the school. "Pahli bar ham donon log aa paye (It was our first time when we both came)" replied the mother, looking into her husband's eyes. When parent-teacher meetings (PTMs) are scheduled on a working day, it becomes difficult for parents to attend. The majority of them work in the unorganized sector, where asking for a leave can sometimes result in job loss. Moreover, the concept of a "Sunday off" is a middle-class idea, as many parents also work on Sundays.
While sipping a cup of tea, they also get an opportunity to chit-chat with other parents around. From their conversation, one can overhear that there is a strong faith in the government school and the teachers. They have a dream in their eyes that this school will help them find social mobility through better education for their children. As one of them said, "Baccho ke liye hi to apna ghar bar chhod kar aaye hain! (We left our homes to come here for our children's education)."