The funds are meant for maintenance of school buildings, but from past three years the buildings of clubbed schools are not in use and have turned into ghost houses, with no watch and ward from the department.
The present dispensation merged at least 2406 government schools in 2015. These included 1834 operating from rented accommodations, and 572 schools functioning in government owned buildings. The schools were clubbed given the meagre enrolment in these institutions. All these schools were established in the state under centrally sponsored scheme Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).
But officially all these clubbed schools are functioning as separate schools in the department. In Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) – database of information about schools in India, the clubbed schools are counted as separate schools and receive annual school grants from Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) under SSA.
The annual school grant for each primary school is Rs 5000 while as for middle school is Rs 7000. Since 2015, MHRD has been releasing the amount in favour of each school which is actually reflected as separate school as per UDISE data.
As per official procedure, the funds after getting releasing from MHRD to state project directorate of SSA in J&K, are disbursed to concerned Chief Education Officers (CEOs) from there the funds are credited to the account of concerned Zonal Education Officers (ZEOs) and finally to concerned school heads.
As per the official figures, 176 government schools in Baramulla, 112 in Kupwara and 20 in Bandipora districts were merged under rationalisation.
Similarly, 131 schools in Anantnag, 269 in Kulgam, 95 in Pulwama and 66 in Shopian districts fell into disuse post-merger. 80 buildings in Budgam, 15 in Srinagar and 18 in schools in Ganderbal district were merged as well. These schools include those which were operating from rented accommodations as well. There has been no official or class work in the government owned school buildings after students were shifted to other schools.
The funds are meant for maintenance of school buildings, but from past three years the buildings of clubbed schools are not in use and have turned into ghost houses, with no watch and ward from the department. Post rationalization 800 school buildings were abandoned, but are receiving grants from MHRD.
The point is that who and how these funds are utilized on school buildings by the officials and who is monitoring the accountability of it, if funds are really utilized on these abandoned buildings.
I remember when the then deputy commissioner Bandipora in early 2015 wrote a letter to directorate of school education Kashmir that one government school in Bandipora has been closed and students from that institution were shifted to adjacent government schools. The directorate took exception wrting back to the director that instead of closed, it should be mentioned as clubbed school. “Because if we show this school as closed school then MHRD will stop all school grants and other maintenance grants in favor of this school. Probably they (MHRD) may also stop salary of the teachers posted in this school which is clubbed and shown as closed,” an official told me in 2015.
When we ask the officials in education department why these clubbed schools are mentioned as separate educational institutions on UDISE, they justify it by saying that the schools will be made functional at their previous location in future in case need arises, or enrolment of this school increases at its new place. If this is the case, then why department had approached JK Board of School Education (BOSE) to take over these spare buildings to accommodate their sub-offices which are functioning in rented accommodations. And now, why department has decided to handover these buildings to social welfare buildings to adjust their ICDS centres (Aanganwari centres). Even if the social welfare department has not formally taken these buildings but the deliberations are going on over it.
The decisions to handover these abandoned buildings to other government department contradicts government justification that they may reopen the clubbed schools at previous locations in near future. And it simply indicates that the authorities don’t want to utilize these buildings in the department.
The education department is getting Rs 5000 as school grants and Rs 7000 as maintenance grants for a primary school while as an amount of Rs 12000 and Rs 14000 are released as school and maintenance grants for a middle school per annum. The funds are released as recurring grants and are lapsable if not used in a financial year. These funds are released from MHRD despite having no watch and ward from department. To top it all, there is no accountability in utilization of these funds. The officials in the department have no idea about these funds and how they are utilized. Recently, I met an official in education department who deals with the planning of SSA. I posed the same question to him that how these funds are utilized. “You have asked a technical question. As of now I have no idea how these funds are utilized. Bu I will convene a meeting in this regard,” the officer replied and penned down this point in his diary.
Some official say these funds are released to CEOs and remain unspent in their offices while as some say these funds are credited into accounts of ZEO offices. While some say these funds get released to concerned heads. But when I ask them how these funds are utilized on abandoned school buildings. They have no answer to it. Till date there has been no audit by the department to ascertain how these funds are utilized by the department and the concerned officials.
With no check from higher ups, these funds after getting released from MHRD either get misappropriated or remain unutilized in the offices of CEOs or ZEOs. The government by playing tactics has managed to get these funds released from MHRD but it should also take steps to maintain accountability in their utilization. Otherwise the basic purpose of these funds gets lost. If not on abandoned school buildings, let the department think of a proper strategy to utilize these funds on schools instead of pawing way for its misappropriation or getting lapse. Let there be proper accountability for utilization of these funds.
“You have asked a technical question. As of now I have no idea how these funds are utilized. Bu I will convene a meeting in this regard,”