In This Srinagar School, Hen, Chickens Share Classrooms With Migrants
27 September 2000
The Indian Express
Srinagar: A two room structure with cracked walls, decaying floors and windows and bare floors. That''s the Government Boys'' Middle School in Basantbagh in the heart of Srinagar city. Inside some women sit chatting on a straw mat and children in dirty clothes play outside; some of them wander aimlessly or squat on the stairs. At the entrance of the 200 year old school is an open stinking toilet. Of the four rooms on the ground floor, two have been occupied by the family of a labourer from Bihar. The headmaster''s office is a dark room accessible only through a small poultry. The classroom has been occupied by a hen and her chickens. As there is no proper toilet, the women teachers here say that they have to request the neighbours to allow them to use their toilets. The school as Basantbagh is not the only one where such conditions prevail. Decade long militancy and mismanagement coupled with official neglect have taken their toll on primary education in the state. Of the nearly 17.43 lakh students studying in various schools, 7.16 lakh are in primary classes. The government however claims to have reconstructed 500 school buildings destroyed in militancy related incidents and says work is in progress in another 150. According to state commissioner of education Sushma Choudhury, 6,800 schools have their own buildings and there are another 2500 schools functioning from rented accommodation. ''There are lot of problems,'' Choudhury says. ''We have been able to convince NABARD to provide us Rs 200 crore for construction of 2,500 school buildings and the same will be implemented in three years,'' she adds. In addition to one extra room, government officials claim, under their scheme, every school will have a verandah with a toilet and drinking water facilities for which the state would release Rs 65 crore every year. To address the shortage of staff, the government has appointed 1700 teachers on contract basis. ''Under the scheme, teachers are selected on contract basis for five years by a five member panel of a villager level committee which would supervise the functioning of the schools and can recommend removal of non-performing teachers,'' a senior official in the Education Department says. More than the shortage of staff, the problem here is that there are not many willing to be shifted out of the city and they readily pull a few strings to ensure their permanent posting. The bosses in the Department of School Education find it difficult to transfer a majority of the teachers posted in various schools in Srinagar because of their reported political connections. ''There are schools which have 60 students and a dozen teachers and also schools having five teachers against hundred of students. This disparity cannot be addressed because the teachers, generally women, are the wives of bureaucrats, politicians or other people close to the ministers,'' a senior officer says. Choudhary who is believed to be among the honest IAS officers admits that it is difficult to transfer such teachers. ''But we have carried out transfers to rationalise the staff in our schools,'' she says. There is also a funds crunch. A senior officer in the education department says: ''The government has sanctioned Rs 60 lakh. But despite a clear cut sanction and even after the issuance of a DP note, the finance department is not releasing the account. What can our department do?'' he asks.