Govt schools in Sopore at mercy of the elements

Sopore: The government girls’ middle school in Adipora area of Sopore was upgraded 13 years ago from primary to middle standard, but the infrastructure has deteriorated rather than improved since then. Headmaster Ghulam Ahmad Bhat said that the school has 120 students from KG to Class 8, but only three classrooms and eight teachers are available for them. “So we teach them in the small lawn outside and in the veranda most of the time. The teachers take turns to teach: when one teacher is teaching a group, then the other students have to keep quiet till the teacher finishes. If it is raining, the water enters the classrooms. We either have to teach the children in wet classrooms or have to keep the school closed till the rain stops,” Bhat said.
The primary school for girls in Adipora was established in 1962. Since then it is functioning in three small rooms, which are partially damaged and have no access to sunlight.
The headmaster said, “We have contacted the village education committee and the education authorities, but no concrete step has been taken to address the problems of the school. The ZEO (Zonal Education Officer) visited a few days back and directed us to take three rooms on rent. But we cannot do that because there is no building in the vicinity in which rooms are available on rent.”
Adipora village is very close to Sopore town, but the school seems to date back to medieval times. Adjacent to this government school is a private public school, which has a well-constructed concrete building with a big playground. Next to the private school, the government school looks like a cowshed.
The private school has been constructed by the Auqaf committee of the area. It is of no use, though, to the children of poor families who cannot afford its tuition fees.
Another government middle school in Sheer Colony in Sopore, which was upgraded from primary to middle standard 12 years ago, is in equally sorry state.
According to headmaster Javid Ahmad Peer, the children studying in the school are industrious and have a thirst for knowledge, but the lack of infrastructure impedes their education.
“We have eight teachers to look after almost 300 students. Our school has the highest enrollment among government middle schools, but due to lack of teaching staff, we stopped admission of more students,” Peer said.
The school has a small building with seven classrooms, but they were damaged in the 2014 floods. Nobody came to repair the rooms, even after many requests to the authorities. “We even contacted the SDM of Sopore, but to no avail,” the headmaster said.
He said that the location of the school, on the bank of river Jhelum, makes it dangerous for small kids. “When there is rainfall, water settles in our school lawn and even seeps into the classrooms. The teaching routine gets affected because of this. Also, the lack of a proper road to the school makes it difficult for kids to reach the school. They have to climb a slope which is almost 20 feet high,” Peer said.
“It is difficult to teach so many students in seven classrooms. We have merged the KG class with the first standard. But still, the quality of education suffers in the lack of infrastructure,” Peer said.
The government girls’ primary school in Lalad, a revenue village in Sopore, is on the verge of closing down because it is completely submerged in water for the past many months. This school was established to replace an earlier government primary school that was closed down because of several problems. It, too, became submerged in water during certain seasons and its location on the highway was risky, as the school had no fence or boundary wall.
The new primary school was established at the same location in 2004 under the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). It has fallen to the same problems as its predecessor.
There are only 11 students enrolled in this school and it has two teachers. It may not be long before it is closed down like the earlier school was.
Mushtaq Ahmad, Chief Education Officer Baramulla, said that his department has “already” taken note of the situation in these schools. “I will contact the principal of the Adipora school, so that we can provide them another building under the SSA scheme,” he said.
When asked about the students-teacher ratio, he said, “We have already ordered officials to look into the schools in their areas and come up with a report. We will improve the students-teacher ratio. It will be done within one week.”
On the primary school in Lalad, Ahmad said, “I will contact the headmaster and provide him funds so that the water can be drained away.”