SRINAGAR: As Kashmir experiences frequent downpour this autumn, girl students at the middle school in Naidyar Rainawari find their classes drenched. The aging building of the school, established in 1970, has leaking roofs and rain water pours into the classrooms.
As if wet classes were not enough, the school has no playground and the neighbourhood dumps its waste near the school. To top it all, the school cook has to prepare the mid-day meals in one of the classes. Parents, say the teachers, are removing their children to other schools.
The school has approached the education department with their problems, but they were told that downtown area in Srinagar has a space crunch and no land was available for a school building.
The school was set up in a decrepit rented building. The education department limits its role to paying the rent, while maintenance and upkeep are left to the owner of the building. There is no official oversight to ensure that the building repaired from time to time, said a teacher at the school.
The middle school has 30 students. According to the administration, the school is losing students due to the poor condition of classrooms and lack of other infrastructure. “Some parents feel it is unsafe for their kids,” said a teacher.
The building is a property of one of the mosques nearby. Government doesn’t pay maintenance grants to rented buildings, but the teachers believe that government should pay for the upkeep to ensure safety of the students. Asiya, a teacher, said that the stairs leading to top floor were not safe. “We feared students might fall and injure themselves because the stairs had no railing. We have put up a temporary railing of plywood and old blackboards to ensure safety,” she said.
The school also lacks a playground. Ashfaq, another teacher said, “Our students want to play but where would they go? Sports and recreation is as important as studying. Students’ life in this school is limited to classrooms. The morning assembly is conducted in the same room where they read and write”. He added that the school surroundings had become a site for dumping waste for the neighbourhood.
After 2014 floods damaged the building, the government constructed new washrooms for students. But teachers say that the taps often run dry.
A committee that runs the affairs of the mosque that owns the school has many times intimated the school authorities to vacate the school. Abdul Rashid, a member of the committee told Kashmir Reader that the school never paid the rent on time. “The rent is few hundreds and that too is pending from months. We have decided that school authorities should leave the building,” he said.
Arif Iqbal Malik, Chief Education Officer Srinagar told Kashmir Reader, “We will access the school and try to get the problem solved so that students won’t suffer. Either we will talk to mosque committee and clear the pending rent or we will find any other place for the school.”