Srinagar, Dec 9: Despite receiving money in crores of rupees from the Ministry of Education (MoE) under the Samagra Shiksha for the strengthening of the educational infrastructure of Jammu and Kashmir, hundreds of government schools in Kashmir are still devoid of their permanent campuses.
The Jammu and Kashmir School Education Department (SED) has been the recipient of substantial funding under the Samagra Shiksha initiative aimed at filling the gaps in school infrastructure.
However, an alarming number of schools, including several high schools in Srinagar district, continue to operate from rented accommodations.
The problem is not persistent in Srinagar district alone, but dozens of schools in other districts lack permanent campuses since their establishment decades ago.
Official statistics reveal that more than 170 schools in Srinagar are functioning from rented spaces.
An official said that Srinagar and Budgam districts are the worst-hit areas, grappling with the highest number of schools operating in rented buildings.
The officials attributed the dire situation to the scarcity of land and space in Srinagar city and Budgam town.
“We have taken up the matter with the Director of School Education Kashmir, and discussions are underway with the district administration. We are hopeful that schools operating in rented accommodations in Srinagar will soon have permanent campuses,” Chief Education Officer (CEO) Srinagar, Abdul Hamid Fanie told Greater Kashmir.
The problem extends to north Kashmir districts as well, where schools established decades ago are yet to secure a permanent campus.
In Kupwara district, numerous schools established under the erstwhile SSA schemes are still reliant on rented accommodations.
An official said that during the last two to three years they were able to shift many schools to new buildings that were under construction.
“However, the major hurdle remains the incomplete construction of buildings sanctioned under erstwhile SSA leaving schools stranded in rented premises. These buildings were sanctioned several years ago but were not completed,” an official said.
As part of the policy, the SED does not provide any toilet or drinking water facility for the kids in rented schools.
Besides lacking basic facilities, the students in these schools are deprived of all other interventions like CAL centres or ICT laboratories as well.
“There is no provision with the department to equip schools with these facilities as the buildings are not treated as government property,” the official said.
The SED earlier surrendered several school buildings which were sanctioned during previous regimes and sought their approval as per the revised project cost.
“Some buildings were sanctioned as per the revised project cost and work is going on and we are hopeful to shift schools to permanent campuses,” the official said.
The issue is not confined to one Kupwara district alone as in Bandipora approximately 50 schools continue to operate from rented accommodations.
Officials said that, in many instances, buildings sanctioned under Samagra Shiksha were left incomplete by contractors, rendering the allocated funds ineffective.
Scores of schools in Budgam also find themselves in rented accommodations, but a top official said that the department was constructing new buildings.
“The government provided us with state land which facilitated the construction of school buildings and provided relief to students who were earlier cramped in shabby rented rooms,” the official said.
Despite the Centre pumping in money in crores of rupees for school infrastructure, the persisting issue of schools lacking permanent campuses has raised concerns about the effective utilisation of these funds over the past years.
Chief Education Officer (CEO), Baramulla, Balbir Singh told Greater Kashmir that despite clubbing of schools and shifting scores of schools to newly constructed buildings around a dozen institutions, mostly primary schools were still operating from rented accommodations.
Project Director Samagra Shiksha J&K earlier told Greater Kashmir that the SED completed around 432 civil works in 2021-22 which were approved under different components of Samgra Shiksha worth Rs 142 crore.
He said that a target had been fixed to complete the projects worth Rs 250 crore during the current financial year.
“There will be no infrastructural gaps in schools after three years. The work has been expedited and all the projects will be completed,” he said.