Rent a building and call it a school

Situated at a distance of one kilometer from the highway, government middle school S K colony Qamarwari is functioning from the ground floor of a building which houses a trouser factory in its upper storey.

The school located on the backside of the police housing colony has only four rooms for eight classes in the ground floor. To accommodate students, the teachers have partitioned a room into four sections.

“One room serves as school office as well as staffroom for the faculty. At times our classes are taken in the open,” said a 3rd primary student.

The school speaks volumes about the much neglected government education system.

The building is the property of local mosque but the factory according to teachers is more profitable than the school for the local committee.

“The factory owner pays the rent on time, but our department delays the payment of rent to the committee,” an official said.

Government middle school S K Colony is not the only school sans basic facilities, but there are other such schools in city that are operating from dilapidated rooms where students are cramped together by the concerned teachers.

Besides lack of drinking water, toilet and electricity facilities, there’re no benches in the classrooms for the students who are assembled in different groups in one room.

Besides other facilities, most of the educational institutions lack ground facilities depriving the students of extracurricular activities. The buildings hired by the department to accommodate schools have either broken windows or the roof top is partly shattered and the walls are worn out. These rented buildings have nothing in them to be called as a school. However, the government seems to be in deep slumber to chalk our measures for providing better accommodation for students which will have all basic facilities.

“What sort of reform do you except from a school where a student is not provided proper classroom facility. The students in these rented buildings are chocked in such a way that teachers can’t set up proper seating arrangements for these students,” an official said.

Most of the times it becomes a headache for the teachers to assemble students of different classes and teach them simultaneously in one congested room which also makes learning difficult for them.

“Obviously there is chaos in rooms when two teachers give lecture to students of two different classes in a single room,” said a teacher who wished not to be named.

As per the official figure, there are around 1400 schools functioning in rented shabby rooms across Jammu and Kashmir. The student population in these schools is over 32000.

The students in these schools are deprived of all basic facilities like drinking water, toilet and library for the students. There are no facilities of CAL centres of ICT laboratories in schools functioning from rented rooms. As per the government policy, there is no provision with the department to equip schools with these facilities as the buildings are not treated as government property.

“These schools are hired on rent and we cannot utilise funds for providing facilities to the students in these buildings. The students enrolled in such schools are deprived of all such facilities which are provided to students in other schools having permanent campus,” an official said.

A government middle school in the heart of downtown Srinagar is functioning out of a single shabby room. Situated at Ali Kadal, the Rehbab Sahib (B) Government Middle School (GMS) was set up in 2005 in a rented room and a corridor as an education guarantee scheme (EGS) centre up to primary level under erstwhile Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).

Five years since, no infrastructure for the school has come up. The school falls in the jurisdiction of Zaldagar education zone; it was even upgraded to the level of middle school but without any infrastructure. There is no proper seating arrangement for students who are crammed in a small room and a corridor to take their classes.

In Zaldagar zone alone out of around 31 government-run educational institutions, only four schools have permanent campus.

“Only three middle schools and a high school have government buildings. Others are functioning out of rented shabby and small rooms,” an official said.

The data from Unified District Information on School Education (UDISE) reveals that  there are 519 government schools in Srinagar district out of which 308 are run from shabby rented spaces without basic facilities required for an educational institution. The student population in rented schools is over 3587.

“We don’t get maintenance grants from Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) for the schools functioning from rented accommodations. We can’t also utilise money from state budget for infrastructural up gradation in rented school spaces,” an official said.

Srinagar is not the only district where the government-run schools are operating in pathetic condition. The condition of hundreds of schools in other districts of valley reveals the abysmal state of education system.

Budgam district has 156 rented schools with an enrollment of 2986 students while as Raouri district has 132 school with enrollment of 2456 students and Reasi district has 200 schools with 4968 student population. The school education department is facing accommodation crises to make these schools fully equipped and provide adequate infrastructure for the students.

Although Government of India (GoI) has been pumping in huge amount for civil works under erstwhile SSA scheme, most of these schools have been neglected by the successive regimes over the years.

Director School Education Kashmir (DSEK), Muhammad Younis Malik said only primary or middle schools established under erstwhile SSA scheme are functioning from rented buildings.

“Wherever schools are functioning in rented buildings, we have asked the building owners to provide basic facility of drinking water and toilet to the students,” he said. He said almost all high and higher secondary schools are functioning from government buildings.