SRINAGAR: Untill a year ago, Jafar Ali, was attending a government school in his locality, but nowadays he spends his day by loitering around.
He dropped out of the school since it was shifted out of his Badiyar Balla locality and clubbed with another school.
Jafar’s father Ali Mohammad, a labourer, says that he would wait a few years before he would take Jafar along with him to work.
“The government school was the lone school in Badiyar Balla locality which was affordable to poor people like us. Now they have taken school to another place where my son can’t travel alone and I don’t have time to accompany him to school.” Ali Mohammad said.
Teachers of many government schools say the government’s inability to pay rent has forced clubbing of various schools causing problems to students.
Parents of dropout students like Jafar say their children are too young to cover the distance to their relocated schools.
The clubbing and relocation of schools goes against the spirit of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan which seeks to open new schools in habitations without schools and strengthen existing school infrastructure through provision of additional class rooms, toilets, drinking water, maintenance grant and school improvement grants.
Sabiya, a teacher at a government school said that instead of strengthening primary school, government clubs them with middle and high school.
“Government should make efforts for strengthening primary schools because it is the place where career of the student begins,” Sabiya said. “As per SSA norms, schools should come to children. It means school should be at a place where students can walk but they are taking schools away. They are violating their own norms.”
Once a school is clubbed and shifted out of locality, teachers say, it loses many of the students.
A government at Payeen Rainawari was clubbed with Girls Government School Naidyar Rainawari few months ago. According to teachers, when the school got clubbed, no student joined the new school. “They were too young to reach other place so we couldn’t get any of our students in this new school,” a teacher said.
“We went door to door and motivated people to send their children to school and when the school was shifted, we lost all our students.”
They said the school was shifted because of unpaid rent for three years. The house owner locked the room and didn’t allow teachers to take the school belongings and told them to get the belongings only when full rent is paid.
“Government preferred to shift the school, rather than paying rent and put career of many students at stake,” said Arifa, a teacher.
Rationalization (clubbing) of schools was started by the then Education minsiter Naeem Akhtar in order to balance the teacher student ratio.
The ratio of 15:1 ratio was increased to 30:1 and during the process, 2400 school were proposed to be clubbed.
Kothi Bagh middle school housed four other schools; Basant Bagh boys middle school, Basant Bagh girls middle school, Babapora girls middle school and Maisuma middle school. Ganpatyar middle school was also clubbed with middle school Babapora.
“The school was attended by children belonging to labour class families. They shifted the school in mid-session. Which school takes admission in the middle of the session? Our children had to waste that year and next year they got admission in other school. Those who couldn’t afford took their children with them to work,” said Aziz Dar, a resident of Basant Bagh.
Chief Educational Officer Srinagar, Arif Iqbal Malik, acknowledged there were problems associated with the clubbing process.
“The problems have been brought in the notice of Education Minister, Altaf Bukhari and we are working on it.” Malik said.