Broken building, broken hopes | Tale of a Mawar school

Authorities must address infrastructural deficiencies in schools located in the Valley's far off and peripheral belts
"At times the students of more than one class are crammed in one room by teachers leaving no scope for students to grasp what they are taught."
"At times the students of more than one class are crammed in one room by teachers leaving no scope for students to grasp what they are taught."Special arrangement

The government-run schools in far off areas of Kashmir are grappling with infrastructural deficiencies which has taken a heavy toll on the overall functioning of these schools.

Over the years, the successive regimes have failed to provide adequate accommodation to the students in rural schools forcing them to attend classes under open sky or in shabby unsafe rooms.

At times the students of more than one class are crammed in one room by teachers leaving no scope for students to grasp what they are taught.

The issue of infrastructural gaps in schools may seem irrelevant now given the winter vacation announced for the schools till February 28 of 2023.

But considering the future of the students, this is the right time for the concerned authorities to chalk out strategies to think of some out of box solutions to fill the infrastructural gaps in schools before the schools resume class work post winter vacation.

These schools are deprived of proper classrooms at a time when the government is promising to have equipped schools with all the infrastructural facilities across the Valley.

Government Primary School in Dawood Colony of Marathgam village in Education Zone Mawar is a case in place. The school was established in November 2005 under the erstwhile SSA scheme. However, the school has been the victim of official apathy since its establishment and has not seen any development till date.

While in other areas the government schools have failed to improve the student enrollment, more than 120 students are enrolled in this government school. These include around five children with special needs as well.

A visit to the schools depicts the official apathy towards these schools as a rough and potholed road welcomes you to the schools.

Ideally, a primary school should have five classrooms for students of five classes. Contrary to it, this school has only three rooms.

The students enrolled in this school up to class 5th are crammed in congested rooms. The room, now converted into classroom, is in shambles.

Such gaps expose the poor infrastructural standards and education policies of the education department at primary level.

To accommodate the students, the school teachers have created a partition in a room which is now being used as classrooms.

The room has however developed major cracks and has become unsafe for the students.

Despite the lack of infrastructure, the teachers posted in the school have maintained the high academic standards and attracted students of nearby villages for admission in the school.

"The parents drop their kids here in their own vehicles. These parents can afford private schools but given the reputation of this school, parents prefer this institution over private schools," said a teacher posted in this school.

Besides normal classrooms, the school does not have ramps and CWSN friendly toilets as well. "The school has one toilet each for boys and girls only," the teacher said.

The lack of infrastructure facilities in this primary school speaks volumes about the official apathy of the authorities towards the education sector in far off areas.

Recently, the district administration Kupwara launched the Zimmedari Project to find the infrastructural gaps in the government schools.

Under the project, the school heads and teaching staff were directed to do a face-lift of the schools and improve the maintenance of the institution.

"The Zimmedari project was a good move but under this initiative we can only facelift the available infrastructure. We cannot create new infrastructure under the initiative. There were no funds available for the project as well," the teacher said.

Pertinently, the government of India has been spending crores of rupees for infrastructural up gradation of schools under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) but this school has remained out of sight of the department.

"We approached the higher ups in the department and some paperwork was done to provide additional accommodation. But till date nothing is being seen on the ground," the school teacher said.

This is not the lone school which has remained out of sight of the government. But there are dozens of such schools which are deprived of basic infrastructural facilities for students.

Another such example is Upper Primary School (UPS) Gujarnar in Mawar Education Zone. The school has been without building for more than six years due to which the students from class 6th to 8th have been shifted to nearby high schools.

The Chief Education Officer (CEO), Kupwara Abdul Hamid Fanie when contacted said the concerned ZEO should include such schools in micro level plan under Samagra Shiksha which will be submitted to the Government of India.

"The plan is submitted online and the Government of India sanctions buildings on the basis of available infrastructure, enrollment and availability of land," he said.

To conclude, the School Education Department must prioritise filling up the infrastructure gaps in Valley's far off belt and provide a level playing field to the students to excel. In absence of proper infrastructure, especially basic amenities, realising the goal of universal education under NEP will be a distant dream.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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