Baramulla: Dispute over land has damaged the education of Scheduled Tribe students in a remote area of Baramulla district. Students from kindergarten to Class 10 are being taught in just two rooms at the Government High School Hamam in Rafiabad area because the new school building is out of bounds for them. The landowner has not allowed the school to be shifted to the new building since it was constructed four years ago.
The education department had upgraded the government middle school in Hamam to a high school several years ago to provide better education to students of this remote and tribal-dominated area. Construction of a new double-storey building was started and just when it was about to be complete, the landowner raised a dispute over the claim to the land and prevented the school authorities from entering the new building. This happened four years ago, and since then the students from KG to Class 10 have been cooped up in the old three-room building, one room of which is used as office, library, and staff room. More than a hundred students are reading in the other two rooms.
“We are helpless,” a teacher said. “Students from KG to Class 6 are reading in one room while students from Class 7 to 9 are reading in the second room. Class 10 students read in the verandah of the school, which was covered with tin sheets by teachers last year. This is a very old building and it may fall down anytime. There is a cooking shed in front of the school but it was damaged last year due to heavy snowfall. Now the cook of the school cooks the midday meals at her home. There is no headmaster in the school for the past several years, since the headmaster was transferred out of the town. The teachers and students go to the high school at Dangiwocha, 20 kms away, or to the ZEO (Zonal Education Office) for formal paper work.”
Ishaq Ahmad, a student of the school, said that many chairs and tables in the school are broken and there is neither blackboard nor matting on the floor to sit on. The boy said that corrupt officials are responsible for this mess.
“Our officers, ministers and other privileged people sit in air-conditioned warm rooms while poor children like us have nothing. The officers get salaries in thousands and lakhs. They should come forward to resolve our problems,” he said.
When contacted, the Chief Education Officer of Baramulla district, Mushtaq Ahmad, said that he will visit the area personally and solve the problems.
“It was already in my knowledge. I will personally visit the area in the next two-three days and will solve all the issues of students and of the landowner there,” the officer said.