“Main bhi wahi admission loonga (I will also take admission there), says a class V student of the government primary school II in Bisalpur block of Pilibhit district after he is told that the headmaster — Furqan Ali — has been transferred to another school.
“He is the best teacher. Everyone loves him at school because he is kind and has never hit us,” the students added.
Kavita (35), whose two children go to the school — a boy in class II and a girl in class I — says, “My children have told me that master sahab used to get vegetables for the school from his own money. After his suspension, every morning, the children wake up and start crying saying they don’t want to go to school. I don’t know what I am going to do.”
Another parent, Poonam (33), whose son is in class II, says they are planning to submit a written application to the Block Education Officer. “We are not literate, but we will do what we can to get him back at the school,” she says.
On October 14, the Pilibhit administration had suspended Ali after local VHP members complained that he made students recite a religious prayer during the morning assembly. They had alleged that the particular prayer is recited in madrasas.
On October 19, the Basic Shiksha Adhikari (BSA) of Pilibhit district temporarily revoked Ali’s suspension on “humanitarian grounds” and transferred him to another school.
Speaking to The Indian Express on Saturday, Pilibhit DM Vaibhav Srivastava had said, “Headmaster Furqan Ali was suspended because a video went viral on social media in which he is seen and heard saying that because most of the students of the primary school belong to a particular community and following their request, he used to get the Iqbal’s poem recited during the morning assembly.”
Ali, a resident of Habibullah Khan Janoobi area in Ghyaspur was posted to the primary school in 2011.
His father, Irfan, says Ali was the first person in the family to get a government job. His right leg afflicted with polio since childhood, Ali was always a “quiet child who kept to his books”, says Irfan. “Now, Ali is the person who pays for my medicines. He did not get married because he says he will do it after all his sisters get married,” he added. Ali is the eldest among seven siblings.
Ali’s sister Ghazala (28), who is to get married in December, and has completed her BA from a college in Bareilly, says the headmaster was always fond of children. “Because he was the eldest, he would always look after us. He always liked children. They instantly befriend him and start playing with him. That is the reason he is so good with children at the school,” said Ghazala.
Prem Narayan, a fourth-class employee at the BEO office on the primary school premises says that Furqan has a “good rapport” with the students. “If he would ask the students to stand in line once, they would. It was not due to fear but because out of respect. I am not surprised that the attendance has dipped since he was removed. One teacher controlling 150-200 students is a big thing,” said Narayan.
After Ali’s suspension, the attendance at the school has dipped substantially. A day after he was suspended, only five students showed up at the school according to the attendance register.
Kavita, whose children refuse to go to school since the suspension, added, “The administration is playing with the future of our children. They don’t care about our children because we are poor.”