Infrastructural gaps in government schools A Chilling Reality

The government schools across Jammu and Kashmir are facing a critical issue that demands urgent attention – lack of infrastructure. While the harsh winter conditions amplify the challenges, this dire situation persists in these schools year-round, impacting education of thousands of students, especially those in kindergarten and primary classes. Despite ambitious education reforms at the national and UT levels, the success of these initiatives hinges on addressing the fundamental issue of inadequate infrastructure.

Over the years, the Jammu and Kashmir Government, in sync with the Government of India’s plans, has implemented numerous reforms in the education sector. The flagship National Education Policy 2020 brought in significant changes in curriculum and pedagogy, aiming to provide a strong foundation for children at the foundational levels. The focus on digitalization, common entrance tests, schemes for girls’ education, and an emphasis on skill development reflect a comprehensive approach to uplift the education sector.

It was a major reform introduced which altered curriculum and pedagogy at different levels, right from school education. It offered a new learning approach which could go a long way in laying a strong foundation of children at the foundation levels. It also offers flexibility in choosing courses, along with multiple entry and exit options.

The Government has also focused on digitisation of education, especially triggered by learning loss due to preceding the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, the number of students registering for SWAYAM, DIKSHA, SWAYAM PRABHA, Virtual Labs, and other online resource portals is said to have increased significantly.
The government introduced Common Entrance Tests at UG and PG levels to do away with state-based competitions, and offer a common platform for all students to compete offering a level playing field.

A lot of focus has also been on educational schemes for girls to increase girl enrollment in schools and colleges while new reforms include added focus on skill development of students.

Amidst these significant reforms, the lack of infrastructure in schools remains a pressing concern. The inadequate facilities, especially in primary and middle-level schools, have led to multiple classes crammed into a single room. Even new colleges operate from insufficient accommodations, with shortages in laboratories and equipment. A recent government report highlighted infrastructural gaps in nearly 5000 schools, particularly those in remote and hilly areas.

In the Higher Education Sector, the government report has also stated that 25 newly established and existing colleges are without their own buildings. This revelation should act as an eye-opener for the authorities and a strategy should be chalked out to fill the infrastructural gaps at school and college level then only we can succeed in bringing reforms in the education sector.

Given the dearth of infrastructure, particularly at Primary and Middle level schools the students of more than one class are crammed in one shabby room reflecting the challenges faced by the education department at ground level.
Not only schools, even new colleges are operating from dingy accommodations. The colleges have a shortage of laboratories and laboratory equipment as well.
The geographical challenges of the region, marked by hilly terrain and severe climatic conditions, contribute to delayed development works. Construction of school buildings, a crucial aspect of strengthening educational infrastructure, faces obstacles in snow-bound areas. The report also underscores that 25 newly established and existing colleges in the higher education sector lack proper buildings.

The dearth of infrastructure has severe consequences for students, especially those in kindergarten and primary classes who endure freezing conditions during winter. The situation not only jeopardizes their health but also impedes the learning process. This raises concerns about achieving the mandated 220 academic days in a session when the basic needs of students are not met.

Unlike some urban schools that receive continuous attention, rural schools are victims of official neglect. Despite a consistent rise in enrollment, these schools
grapple with a lack of infrastructure, hindering their potential for excellence. The government’s focus on city schools needs to extend to rural areas, where the student population provides hope for success if adequate attention is given.

The dearth of basic infrastructure in schools has raised apprehensions among the stakeholders as the school going children continue to shiver in the schools as the government has set a target to complete 220 academic days of the session without considering the ground reality of the schools.
No doubt the government’s commitment to education reforms is commendable, the success of these initiatives hinges on addressing the infrastructure gaps in Jammu and Kashmir’s government schools. The chilling reality faced by students in these schools demands immediate action.
While the students continue to suffer, the School Education Department (SED) has no provision to provide heating facilities for students in schools, given the huge number of schools in the Valley and winter zones of Jammu. This problem has been there and the situation continues like this every year.

We are not supporting or advocating early closure of schools or derail the academic session but given the dip in the daily temperature and the lack of infrastructure in schools, it has raised apprehensions among the parents and other stakeholders.

From the past few days, a thick layer of fog engulfed many parts of Kashmir as sub-zero temperatures were recorded at multiple places like Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian,

Budgam, and Bandipora. So, keeping in view the prevailing ground situation, the SED should start holding deliberations of announcing winter vacations at least for pre primary classes.
While the completion of the academic session is mandatory, it is crucial for the authorities to provide better infrastructure for the students to achieve the academic goals.

The government should prioritize the construction of school buildings, provide necessary equipment, and overcome geographical challenges to ensure a conducive learning environment. only it can achieve the target of completing 220 academic days. Only by filling these infrastructural gaps can the region witness the positive outcomes of the educational reforms introduced by the government. It goes without saying that introduction of new reforms must be equally complimented by adequate infrastructure.

The two must go hand in hand to reap the benefits of educational reforms at grassroots.

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