Villages say dropout rate, especially among girl students, is high; poverty and harassment limit their access to a higher secondary miles away
BUDGAM: The efforts of villagers in Poshker to get their school, established in 1946, upgraded from secondary to higher secondary level seem to be failing despite decades of lobbying.
The school is one of the oldest institutions in the district and has 15 teachers for 300 odd students. The school has near 100 percent pass rate and its students have outperformed their counterparts in other schools in the circle for many years.
Established on a small chunk of land, the school now owns more than 17 kanals donated by villagers for its upgradation. But the education department has neglected the upgradation demands despite the voluntary efforts.
“We are being forced to travel 15 kilometers every day to get to higher secondary school. It has increased the dropout rate,” Tawseef Ahmad, a student said. Security concerns and long distance travel has added to the miseries of students from poor families, he said. Girl students are the worst affected.
“Government trumpets the “Beti padaw beti bachaw” scheme. Do they know Poshker has out-rightly been ignored. The girl students here become the worst victims of the situation, their dropout rate because of security concerns and eve teasing is at peak,” said educationist Sheikh Gulzar, who lives in the local area. “Upgradation (of Poshker school) is a pressing problem in current circumstances.”
Girl student from Poshkar say that travelling long distances by foot, or by bus, is a nightmare. “Students, young and old, are touched in buses by men. Some even rub themselves on and push at us,” a girl student said. “You have to be a woman to understand how limited we feel when men grope us.”
Riddled in poverty and intimidated by groping, boys and girls in this area of 15 villages prefer to walk to school than take a bus. Not everyone makes it beyond the secondary level though.
“We walk. We have no money to pay for bus fare,” said another student Firdous. “We have been facing the same situation for years. Hundreds of students have said a goodbye to education.” He requested the concerned authorities to pay attention to “our long standing pleas and redress our grievances”.
Villagers say that politicians visit the area every year and assure that the school will be upgraded. “But their promises are only for votes. They do not remember their promises after elections, “ Ali Mohammad, a elder in the village said.
“Although the former CM Omar Abdullah is our MLA, the institution could not get his patronage even during his reign,” he added.
Chief Education Officer Budgam Abdul Rouf Shahmari told Kashmir Reader that no secondary school had been upgraded so far. “Only middle schools have been upgraded. We are making the list and will mention its name as well.”
He said he hopes the school will be upgraded.