TORCHING OF SCHOOLS: ‘Abandoned buildings vulnerable to attacks’

In wake of the rising attacks on school buildings, the school education department is mulling to approach the government to take over these structures for setting up offices of the various departments.
TORCHING OF SCHOOLS: ‘Abandoned buildings vulnerable to attacks’

In wake of the rising attacks on school buildings, the school education department is mulling to approach the government to take over these structures for setting up offices of the various departments. 

As per the official figures, over 800 school buildings were abandoned by the education department following the merger of educational institutions- an exercise initiated by JK government in 2015– to streamline the pupil teacher ratio in government schools.

The officials however said the buildings which were left abandoned in wake of the merger of schools were vulnerable to attacks by miscreants.

"These buildings were spared after the department initiated rationalization of schools in Kashmir. No class work or any other school related happenings take place in these buildings. So these empty structures are vulnerable to attacks and cause loses for the department," the officials said.

Interestingly, in wake of the unrest that broke out post killing of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander, Burhan Wani on July 8, around 33 government schools were set ablaze during the past four months.

The attacks were launched on schools at a time when all the educational institutions were shut for more than four months.

On Friday, miscreants torched a school building of Government Primary School (GPS) Rigipora in north Kashmir's Kupwara district.

Officials said the building was abandoned after the clubbing of government schools in Kupwara district. The school has two blocks of which one block was set in flames while another block was spared.

As per the official records 426 schools were clubbed in Kupwara district of which 55 schools were functioning in government buildings which are now left abandoned.

"Building of Rigipora School is one such example. These schools can easily be attacked as they are not being looked after by the department following the rationalization process," the official said.

In wake of burning of schools, the school education department on the directions of Divisional Commissioner Kashmir started deputing Chowkidars, CPWs and teachers for night duties to safeguard the institutions.

However, the safety of abandoned school buildings has posed challenge for the department. "No one is physically posted in these schools. The staff and the students have been shifted to other school," the official said.

The safety of abandoned schools has become a cause of concern in other districts as well.

The Director School Education Kashmir (DSEK) Ajaz Ahmad Bhat admitted that no measures were taken by the department for the safety of abandoned school buildings. He however said the department was mulling to make these buildings to be taken up by other government departments. "We will take up the matter with district administrations and try to put them under use in other government departments," Bhat said.

Since the inception of centrally sponsored schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan and RMSA in JK state, thousands of new schools were created in far off villages while as some buildings were set up as a strengthening component for already existing schools in Kashmir.

The PDP lead coalition government in 2015 merged above 2400 schools which left over 800 buildings abandoned. The figures were also revealed by government in the last session of JK Legislative Assembly.

The number of abandoned school buildings in Baramulla is 176 and 20 in Bandipora district. Seven buildings are abandoned in Srinagar, 18 in Ganderbal and 81 in Budgam district.

The number of abandoned buildings is 131 in south Kashmir's Anantnag district while as 55 are in Shopian and 85 in Pulwama district.

Meanwhile DSEK said teachers were not supposed to guard the under construction school buildings which are yet to be taken over by the education department.

"School buildings which are under construction and have not been taken over by the schools from contractors doesn't belong to the department," he said.

Scores of school buildings being constructed under SSA and RMSA have not been handed over by the contractors to the concerned schools.

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