Srinagar: Believe it or not, the school buildings whether old or new do not comply to the safety norms that should have otherwise been adopted while constructing these buildings and bringing them under use.
Notably, the state government has built thousands of school buildings under state plan or Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA). However, all the school buildings have faulty construction as none of these building has adopted retro fitting measures to make these structures as quake resistant.
Jammu and Kashmir falls in seismic zone-V and is prone to high magnitude earthquakes. The issue has put the spotlight on dilapidated educational institutions in Kashmir which are either unsafe or running from shabby rented buildings, putting students’ lives at risk.
Leave aside safety measures, the schools in summer capital are running from outdated rented buildings which according to officials can ‘collapse’ anytime.
Pertinently, over 300 schools are functioning from rented accommodations in Srinagar district alone.
“Even if they have meager enrollment but the life of all the students in these schools is at risk. A quake of minor magnitude can shake these buildings. But government is unmoved,” said an official of school education department.
Besides the Capital city there are other school buildings including those constructed by government, which are unsafe for students.
“Not only the ground assessment reveal that government school buildings were unsafe, but government reports too have pinpointed widespread loopholes vis-à-vis construction of buildings,” said a teacher wishing not to be named.
“Before the construction of school buildings in J&K, no provision and facility of material testing is available,” states a report prepared by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). The report was prepared in 2013 and since then there was no change in construction plan of school buildings.
“The quality of material being used for construction of schools must be certified by the proposed technical staff and the ‘third party inspection team,” it states.
The report states that 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 in the state,” it says.
Sources in State Education Department said the construction of schools has never been qualitatively checked by the concerned authorities and standards of building design in view of earthquakes were never followed.
According to officials, there is one basic standard before a building is devised for school- It should have emergency exits.
“But we have some schools which are running in outdated rented buildings,” an official said.
The then divisional commissioner of Kashmir in 2013 had stated that no building including schools in Kashmir would be given permission for carrying out construction work without following the standards of making them fully earthquake resistance.
“But the claims remained confined to papers only. There was no change in construction plan. The buildings constructed in 2014 and 2015 have not followed retro fittings or adopted any safety measures,” the official said.
Interestingly around 400 school buildings were damaged due to 2013 earth quake which hit the Chenab valley. The government constituted various committees to probe the faulty construction, however, the issue remains under the carpet till date.
“No action was taken against any official for allowing unsafe construction of school buildings,” the official said.
Interestingly, J&K government claims to have prepared a roadmap for over all revamp of education sector. However, the authorities are least bothered to address the basic issue of providing and using unsafe buildings for students.
Secretary school education Farooq Ahmad Shah said the government from past years have merged various schools which were functioning from rented accommodation and were unsafe as well.
“We are aware of the issue and will try our best to implement the quake resistant model for new buildings in future,” Shah said.