Risky building; lack of space; no electricity and drinking water
It doesn’t have even a single facet to be called a school. Its windows are broken, the rooftop is party shattered and the walls have worn out.
Welcome to Government Girls Middle School, Plan Bandipora, a rotten educational institution in this north Kashmir town and an example of hundreds of such schools in Kashmir which pose a great threat to lives of children because the buildings have been categorized as unsafe.
Established in 1962 as Primary School and upgraded in 1978 to Middle School, the institution has been constantly neglected by governments, despite being located in the heart of the town here: the main market.
The two-storey building has just four makeshift classes and teachers have to adjust four other classes on the structure’s balcony, an unsafe place without proper fence, rooftop or floor.
Even the Morning Prayer is recited on the same balcony by children.
“It is an unsafe building and children are under grave threat,” says Ghulam Nabi Khan, the school headmaster.
“We have conveyed the issue to higher authorities many times but nothing is being done.”
The school, Khan pointed out, is actually housed in a rented structure and that the institution doesn’t have its own building.
That means the government has been hiring the building for half a century – 52 years to be more accurate. And in this time span it has failed to construct a building for this school. Is it because more than 50 orphans and destitute study in the school?
The institution has a total roll of 62 students including girls; 55 are orphans or from destitute families who live in a government-run orphanage in the town.
“We have no water here,” says Najam-ud-din, a 6th standard student who comes from the orphanage. “And when we go to a nearby house to quench thirst, they scold us for trespassing.”
Also the headmaster believes that absence of water is a grave problem for the school.
Since its establishment, the school has been without electricity, a playground for children and a full-fledged washroom.
“We have many problems here,” says Suariya, a 7th standard student. “Prime among them being absence of water and a separate washroom for girls.”
The school is considered to be the district’s first and oldest institution, some 57 kilometers from Srinagar, the state’s summer capital.
“We have the urge to play but where would we go,” says Kaisar Ahmad Nagoo, another student. “It is so monotonous to be here.”
Kaisar also pointed out presence of dogs outside the school that has no fencing. “Dogs roam freely around our school and sometimes they enter into the classes,” he says.
“We are always scared in here.”
The School Report Card (2012-13) of the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA), New Delhi, had revealed widespread deficiencies in government schools across J&K.
It had said around 30 percent of schools were without an electricity connection and around 30 percent didn’t have a boundary wall.
The Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2011 had revealed that 47.2 percent of schools had no facility for drinking water while as 33.4 percent had no toilet facility.
Given all the deficiencies, what is most traumatic for both teachers as well as children is the building being risky.
“Even with little wind, the building shakes,” Khan, the headmaster, says. “It has every possibility of a collapse.”
Nazir Ahmed Kant, Bandipora’s Chief Education Officer, says the administration needs to ascertain the matter but accepted building has been categorized as “risky.”
He explains that the main problem was huge liability under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), a New Delhi flagship education programme.
This liability, he says, is the main bottleneck in construction of new buildings which could accommodate schools housed in risky buildings.