Srinagar: The empty school buildings of the Education department have got government ownership after remaining unattended and abandoned for the last six years.
As per the official figures, there were around 1250 abandoned school buildings which had turned into ghost houses with no watch and ward from the School Education Department for the past six years.
These buildings were rendered empty after the previous regime in 2015 merged around 2400 government schools that had zero or meager enrolment of students.
The rationalisation of schools was done after 124 government schools in the erstwhile J&K state were found without any student enrolment.
After the rationalisation process, these buildings had become ghost houses, many of which were later turned by miscreants into hubs for illegal activities.
The School Education Department had started the exercise to collect the details of the abandoned school buildings.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Principal Secretary School Education Department Bishwajit Kumar Singh said that the buildings had been distributed to different government departments as per their requirement to put these strictures to use.
“The buildings have been handed over to the Revenue department, Rural Development Department, and Social Welfare Department to run Anganwari centres and Mission Youth Department to establish youth clubs in these buildings,” Singh said. “There was no fun to keep these 1250 ghost buildings lying unattended so we distributed them to different government departments.”
These abandoned school buildings which were left empty after rationalisation of schools still exist as separate schools on UDISE.
On the basis of this, the School Education Department still gets maintenance grants for these buildings from the Union Ministry of Education.
“Yes, these buildings still exist on UDISE but we cannot keep them abandoned for that reason. They have not been in use for the last six years and have turned into ghost houses,” Singh said.
He said that the department would not receive the maintenance grants for these buildings now but the grants for students would continue to flow.
“The amount received as maintenance grants for buildings is minimal and we may not receive that now. But to get the minimal grants we cannot keep these buildings empty,” Singh said.
He said that the buildings would be maintained and renovated by the different government departments which had taken them over from the Education department.
Notably, the transfer of empty school buildings to other departments has hinted at no improvement in student enrollment in schools.
The government in 2015 while merging the schools said that the institutions would be shifted back to their original locations as and when the enrollment in these schools would improve.
However, after the passage of six years, the government schools have not shown any increase in the enrollment, forcing the Education department to handover these empty buildings to other departments.
The official figures state that the enrolment of students in government schools across J&K has decreased by two percent.
The revelation paints at a major challenge being confronted by the government to retain the students and increase enrolment in its schools.
The figures were presented in the recent Project Approval Board (PAB) meeting convened by Secretary Education and Literacy (SEL) in the Department of School Education and Literacy (DSEL) to consider the Annual Work Plan and Budget (AWP&B) 2021-22 under Samagra Shiksha for J&K.
As per the official figures, the enrolment has decreased by 0.2 lakh at the primary level and 0.1 lakh at the upper primary level which resulted in a decrease of 0.34 lakh enrolment at the elementary level.