Who cares for Government-run schools?

Most of the government middle schools in the city are without proper infrastructure and lack basic facilities for students

SCHOOL EDUCATION

UMER BEIGH

A government school teacher with a book in hand is sitting on her chair teaching a class outside the school building. The students, with their notebooks open, listen to her carefully while sitting on the ground. Only few students are wearing a proper uniform.  This is a common sight in most of the government-run middle schools in the city.
Wearing a school uniform and ragged shoes, Farooq Ahmad, a 7th standard student of Government Middle School at Hawal, Srinagar belongs to a poor family like most of the students in the school. “I have got only one shirt to wear as a uniform, but that was dirty so I wore this one,” he says. He often comes to school without having proper breakfast and lunch. “Many times I went home hungry without food”, he says.
Although the government claims to facilitate regular mid-day meals for the students throughout the working days, but on the ground the funds are not paid in advance. For a school that has more than 100 students to feed daily, it costs about Rs 5000 every month and approximately Rs 50,000 per year.
“We never receive funds on time,” says the in-charge teacher of a government middle school in Hawal. “How long we will pay these expenses from our pocket to get food for our students.” We try our best, she says, but ultimately who suffers?
Government-run schools have been facing such problems for a long time now. There’re problems like inadequate accommodation, less infrastructure, mid-day meals, shortage of teaching staff, sanitation and even problems regarding availability of proper drinking facility in schools which function mostly from renting buildings. These problems exist in government-run schools despite the schemes launched by the government to improve the quality of school education. One such scheme is Sarva Shikhsha Abhiyan (SSA) – education for all movement, which is a centrally-sponsored program meant for sustainable education for children between the age group of 6 to 14.  The main aim of SSA is to fulfill the basic requirements of children and improve the quality of school education. According to the guidelines in this scheme the registered schools should have proper infrastructure to facilitate comfortable teaching.
The functioning of 228 schools presently running in eight zones of the Srinagar district may have improved to some extent with this scheme, but there’re still many schools in the city where SSA scheme is yet to be implemented.
Government Middle School in Zadibal, for example, was upgraded from primary to middle school in 2010. It was only last year that toilet and drinking facility was made available to this school. Before that, its students had no option and they either had to use nearby houses or return home for these essential requirements.  “It was challenge for me to bring toilet facility available to this school,” says the in-charge teacher of the school.
Nearby, another middle school in Hawal is also facing problems. The playground of the school is full of litter.  Even cow dung can be seen on the playground.  The condition of another middle school at Jogilanker, Rainawari is appalling. The school is operating from a rental building. Even when a person walks on the floor, the structure vibrates. “Every time any heavy vehicle passes by on the road, this building shakes,” says a teacher of the school.  There is no facility for toilet or drinking water in this school. “We don’t have any toilets even for our girls which is embarrassing,” says the in-charge teacher. “They have to go to their homes to use toilet,” she says. The In-charge teacher says there are around 25 students enrolled in her school. “We fear for their safety,” she says, adding, “this building can come down anytime.”  Whenever they approached the concerned authorities, the teachers say only promises were made to them.
Similar problems can be encountered in majority of middle schools in the Srinagar city.  The Government Girls Middle School in Bachi-Darwaza, which is functioning from two rental rooms, has a staff of only four teachers for 58 students who have to be accommodated in a few cramped rooms.  This school was upgraded three years ago but the facilities remain inadequate, although some grants were released for the school infra-structure. “In these two rooms we have to accommodate our kitchen, our library, our office and our classrooms,” says the in-charge teacher of the school. Everyday three teachers teach a class in a single room. “Before taking any class, we make three sections in a single room where each student sits in his proper line,” the teacher explains.  “As per the schedule when one teacher delivers a lecture, the second teacher remains silent and then the third teacher teaches accordingly,” she explains. 
The ongoing economic survey conducted by the government is adding more woes to the students in the government schools. All the staff of Government Middle School Jamia Masjid, Nowhatta was scheduled to attend to the economic survey. But it was decided that only five teachers will be sent out for survey out of the eight teaching staff members.  Three small classrooms in this school accommodate 80 students. “Presently this school is having only three teachers to manage the school work,” says a staff teacher.  Muzamil Sultana, Zonal Education Officer (ZEO) Hawal Zone says there’s no alternative. “We as government employees can’t revolt,” she says. “It is an order and we have to follow it.”
The ZEO claims that there is no school in her zone where toilet facility is not available. From past few years this has remained our main focus, she says. “Maybe there will be some exceptions but as a whole we have done well,” she adds.  Regarding mid-day meals, she says as per the scheme the funds are released late. “We accept that should not have been the procedure,” the ZEO says, “but we can’t do anything in this regard as maximum funds are released from the centre.” 
When contacted, Chief Education Officer School Education, Nazir Ahmad admitted that government schools in the city are facing a ‘major issue of accommodation.’ “Actually the local people are not supporting us,” he says. “We can’t afford to buy all the structures that we are renting at this point of time.”

Lastupdate on : Wed, 10 Apr 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 10 Apr 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 11 Apr 2013 00:00:00 IST




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UMER BEIGH

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