The School Education Department has been investing crores of rupees on the construction of school buildings, but somehow they are building structures which are not earthquake resistance.
The school structures not being quake resistance is worrisome as Jammu and Kashmir falls in seismic zone-V. Seismic zone-V- makes the area prone to high magnitude earthquakes. Thus, it puts the lives of students at risk.
During the construction of school buildings, the state government did not adhere to the guidelines under various schemes like Sarva Saksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rashtriya Madhiyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA).
It may be recalled that the state government had changed the construction policies in the aftermath of the 2005 Jammu and Kashmir earthquake. However, these guidelines have not been taken into consideration while construction of school buildings.
“Post 2005 quake, the construction strategy for all residential houses and government buildings or institutions was changed, but the government didn’t implement it for construction of school buildings,” a top official said.
“All new building constructed for DIET, ZEO or CEO office or guest house are earthquake resistant structures, but school buildings have been made haphazardly putting lives of students at risk,” the official said.
It may be recalled that around 400 structures, including over 200 school buildings were damaged in Kishtwar and erstwhile Doda districts of Chenab valley region which exposed the flawed construction of school buildings in the state.
Even the surveys have pinpointed widespread loopholes vis-à-vis construction of buildings.
A report prepared by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in 2013 states, “Before the construction of school buildings in J&K, no provision and facility of material testing is done. It becomes very difficult to alter the sub-standard material used.” Despite the loopholes pointed out by the union ministry, the school education department continues to construct school buildings without using quake resistant material.
The report has stated that the quality of material being used for construction of schools must be certified by the proposed technical staff and the third party inspection team.
“There was no provision of earthquake resistant structures in the building design in Kashmir region, which is highly sensitive to earthquakes. The same needs to be incorporated,” it states.
Meanwhile, sources in School Education Department said that the construction of schools have never been qualitatively checked by the government. “The standard of building design in view of earthquakes is never followed. No building has an emergency exit which is a basic requirement before a building is planned for a school,” the official said.
Besides flawed construction of school buildings, the School Education Department has not initiated any plan to impart disaster preparedness in schools.
As per the official figures there are over 24,000 schools with the enrollment of more than 17 lakh students throughout the state.
The official said, “No such training has been given to students. Rarely any NGO or some other organization visits the schools to conduct a day-long program regarding disaster preparedness. No such effort has been planned by the department as well,” the official said.
Chairman Joint Committee of Private Schools (JCPS), G N Var said, “There should be proper categorization of schools on the basis of disaster preparedness facilities available for students.
“Given the crowd of students and less awareness among teachers and students it becomes very difficult to deal with such situations. There are no safety norms in any of the schools.”
Secretary school education, Farooq Ahmad Shah was not available for comments.