SED's poor show

J&K has performed poorly in execution of civil works in the school education sector. It hits the objective of providing a congenial atmosphere to children to study and excel
While the government is taking new initiatives for bringing reforms in the education sector, the failure in completion of school buildings and other infrastructure is playing a spoilsport.
While the government is taking new initiatives for bringing reforms in the education sector, the failure in completion of school buildings and other infrastructure is playing a spoilsport.Special arrangement

The completion of civil works has become a huge liability for the J&K's School Education Department (SED).

Since the inception of the centrally-sponsored schemes like erstwhile Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) in J&K, the department has miserably failed to complete the construction of school buildings in a time bound manner which has resulted in accommodation crunch in majority of the schools and is depriving students of basic facilities of classrooms.

While the government is taking new initiatives for bringing reforms in the education sector, the failure in completion of school buildings and other infrastructure is playing a spoilsport.

Over the years, the performance of the J&K's SED has not remained satisfactory and was repeatedly reprimanded by the Government of India for its failure to meet the target in completion of all school buildings approved during the previous years.

In wake of the poor performance in completion of the works, the department had to surrender several school buildings as the projects faced cost escalation due to non execution of works for a long period of time.

Despite giving assurances, the J&Ks education department has failed to meet the target and complete the pending buildings till date.

In the recently held Project Approval Board (PAB) meeting convened by Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy (DSEL), Ministry of Education (MoE), GoI, the department was again censured for its slow pace in execution of civil works.

In the meeting it was revealed that the department has performed poorly in execution of civil works which has left the schools buildings incomplete while construction work on hundreds of buildings is yet to be taken up.

The PAB meeting was convened to consider and approve the annual budget and works plan for the 2022-23 financial year. However, the J&K had to cut a sorry figure during the meeting for its failure to complete the pending construction and take up construction of other buildings in J&K.

As per the official document, the secretary DSEL has said a large number of civil works were pending in J&K while work on majority of the buildings and other works has not shown any progress.

"The expenditure under civil works during 2021-22 was very slow, around below 50 percent. The J&K UT has been asked to complete all pending civil works at the earliest," the document reads.

As per the official figures out of 78388 works, the department is yet to take up work on 14348 projects at at elementary level schools

These include Upper Primary School (UPS) buildings in which out of 1181 works the department is yet to take up 120 buildings. The GoI has also approved around 25015 additional classrooms to overcome the accommodation crunch in schools but work on 3156 rooms is yet to be started.

At secondary school level, out of 614 buildings only 383 have been completed so far and work on 48 projects is yet to be started.

At higher secondary level, the GoI had approved 12 new schools out of which only three are complete and work on three buildings is under progress. However, the other left out six schools are yet to be taken.

The J&K SED has also performed poorly in implementation of the girls' education scheme. The department has failed to operationalise 85 KGBVs of Type IV, which is an area of concern.

As per the official figures, construction of over 50 KGBV buildings has not been started yet. In wake of the poor performance of the department, the Secretary DSEL has asked the J&K UT to expedite the construction of these pending civil works at the earliest.

Since the implementation of the centrally-sponsored schemes like erstwhile SSA and RMSA in J&K, the Central Government has pumped in funds in crores in J&K to strengthen the school education department.

However, all the efforts have gone down the drain in J&K as the successive regimes in coordination with the school education department allegedly misused the funds for political gains.

The failure of the government to take up construction work on school buildings and complete the under-progress construction is affecting school children who are taking classes in shabby, rented rooms.

Another reason for delay in executing the constriction of school buildings is the fact that most of these buildings were approved at such locations which are inaccessible without any approach road.

The department cuts a sorry figure in all the PAB meetings with the Department of School Education and Literacy (DSEL), GoI, for its repeated failures to complete the pending construction and take up construction of other buildings in J&K.

Notably the department surrendered various projects of civil works which were sanctioned during the past years. It was done to clear the liability of the pending constructions. But the move has clearly exposed the deep rooted corruption in the department for the past many years and the incompetence of the officials to streamline the process.

The J&K administration should take up these pending works on priority and fix a timeline for completion of all pending civil works.

But given the past experience it is unlikely that the department will complete the pending works in time bound manner and meet the deadline set by DSEL, GoI.

The contractors allegedly enjoyed hidden support of Zonal Education Officers and some school buildings were constructed in paddy fields without roads access. The work on such school buildings was either left midway or is yet to be started.

While the GoI has pumped funds worth crores to provide better accommodation to school children in government schools across J&K, the efforts have gone down the drain due to the ill planning of successive regimes in J&K.

All these projects and civil works were used allegedly for political gains while the student who was supposed to be the basic beneficiary of the facility continues to remain deprived of it.

The government should initiate action against all those who made these schemes a mess in J&K and kept the students deprived of all these facilities. Students cannot study properly if congenial atmosphere is not provided to them.

If they continue to study from dingy accomodations, it will certainly impact their teaching-learning processes. The government of the day must understand the need to create better facilities for students for them to excel. That will be its biggest contribution to the education sector.

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