Poor infrastructure makes students suffer in govt. schools in Kashmir

IMG_20130709_103138At a time when Governor N.N Vohra says,” let every child go to school” hundreds of thousand children in Kashmir are getting education under deplorable conditions. The infrastructure in government schools even in the heart of summer capital Srinagar leaves much to be desired for. One has to remember that majority of children from lower middle classes and weaker sections of society are enrolled in these schools, and if quality education is not made available to them then it is nothing less than injustice. While Governor Vohra stressed on the need of taking all measures to ensure that every child goes to school his government has clearly not been able to deliver the goods. Nothing is being done when it comes to provide basic facilities to the children who are expected to compete with students from private schools later in their lives.

According to an economic survey conducted in 2011 more 4000 schools are being run from rented buildings which lie either in a very bad condition or are too small to accommodate the required number of children. A CAG report tabled in the budget session of state assembly clearly put the onus of non-performance on the government when it said that despite liberal funding from the centre almost 70 to 85 per cent schools in the state had no toilets, drinking water, electricity facilities, playgrounds and book banks for students. The problem becomes more acute in light of the fact that girl students are first to leave the schools in the absence of public conveniences.

While the report admonishes the government the children who cannot afford private schools also complain that government is doing little forIMG_20130709_103604 them. “Our classroom is so small that we have to sit in each other’s laps. During classes our focus in not on studies but our comfort. How we can study in such condition,” say girls of class 8th at Government School, Safa Kadal, an area in downtown Srinagar. The plight children in schools which are run on rented buildings is even poor as these schools have little space to make available necessary facilities.

“We don’t have a laboratory. For a child who is studying in 10th standard, experiments are a part of his academics, if he doesn’t perform them he won’t go through his exams,” says principal of the school. Whenever these children have to carry out experimentation, they get all the chemicals from the closet, spread them on a table and then perform their work. “Such is our status,” she expresses.

She further add, “The results of Government schools are always bad and teachers are always blamed for it but none looks under what circumstances we teach our children.” When any student of these schools wants to take advantages of the books available in library, disappointments is all s/he gets.

“If I want to read a book I have to take that home and read as we don’t have a library at school. Our library is a cabinet which lie in the small corridor of our school,” says Aliya, who studies in a government school.

IMG_20130709_103559The complaints made by children find an echo in the CAG report which clearly said that funds meant for purchasing blackboards, siting mats, dusters, registers and other equipment were not released on time. Interestingly, the State Implementing Agency of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, a flagship education scheme had retained funds instead of spending them for spread of education and was earning interest on it as the money was parked in saving bank accounts from 2006 to 2011.

It is because of the poor implementation of schemes like SSA and failure to boost infrastructure that results of these schools are suffering in the board exams. The poor quality of education delivered in these schools has also forced many of the parents to shift to private schools as they are able to provide better education as compared to the sarkari counterparts. Recently, Minister of State for education Feroz Khan while answering a question in the Legislative Council admitted that that private schools had delivered better results than government schools in the last one decade across the state. It was also revealed that student-teacher ratio in government schools in the Valley for primary schools is 26:1; in Anantnag district it’s 51:1, followed by Bandipora
which has 36:1 and Kulgam with 33:1. For government middle schools, the teacher-student ratio is 1:9 with Baramulla district having 1:13, followed by Budgam with 1:12 and Ganderbal with 1:11. Similarly, he said, for high and higher secondary schools, the teacher-student ratio is 1:28, with Anantnag having 1:38, followed by Shopian with 1:24 and Kupwara 1:22. An expert says that it is a paradox that despite having a healthy teacher to student ratio the schools in the state have failed to produce good results. There is need for better monitoring and accountability in the education department, he says.

At present, 23454 government schools (14453 primary schools, 6976 middle schools, 1418 high schools and 607 higher secondary schools)IMG_20130709_103252are functioning in the state. In addition, there are two State Institutes of Education (SIEs), 22 District Institutes of Education & Training (DIETs), 1600 Cluster Resource Centres and 4728 private schools.

In addition to the poor school infrastructure roads are another problem for these schools. The roads leading to most of the government schools are in dilapidated condition.

“Whenever it rains we ask our children to go back home as the roads get completely water lodged, she says. According to concerned official government is helpless when it comes to Srinagar. “In Srinagar we face a lot of problem in procurement of land, as in here land isn’t available to come up with new schools,” he says.

By Lubna Reshii