SHOPIAN/PULWAMA: A total of 400 government schools of Shopian and Pulwama districts have been clubbed with nearby schools after witnessing a huge decline in student enrolment over the past several years. More than 250 of these schools have no buildings.
In Shopian district, official records said that about 190 schools were clubbed with the nearest government schools citing issues of space crunch. These schools had no buildings orland available for them or they suffered fall in enrolment. A similar situation was found in Pulwama where 200 schools were clubbed with nearby schools after their enrolments declined. Among these, 112 have no buildings of their own and 36 were conducting their work from rented buildings.
Parents who have withdrawn their children from government schools complain that the lack of modern education and the outdated text books of government schools were their reason for withdrawing their wards.
Mushtaq Ahmad, a resident of Malibug, Shopian, told Kashmir Reader that the school his children went to was closed and clubbed with another school in Imamsahib, which was causing them problems as they had to walk several kilometres to reach their school.
A Pulwama local said that nearby schools’ having no buildings became a major reason for him not to seek admission for his ward.
Javid Ahmad Kumar, a Shopian resident, said that despite huge budget being spent on the education sector, the government schools have much lower enrolment as compared to private schools. Kumar suggested steps be taken at the schools’ level and recommended that teachers failing at their duty be dealt with strictly.
Irfan Ahmad Lone, a government teacher from district Shopian, said however that the school he works at had succeeded in getting back its former student numbers. “Currently we have an enrolment of 115 students in the school, which is highest in our education zone. We are expecting more admissions this year from private schools. Recently, two of our students from Class 6 got first positions at ‘complex head’-level examinations,” he said.
Jahangir Ahmad Ganie, a resident of Litter, Shopian, told Kashmir Reader that the government must take steps and allocate budget for the construction of buildings for schools lacking in infrastructure or land for constructing buildings.
For the government’s part, an official rued how “despite having buildings and infrastructure, there were dozens of schools which were clubbed after a massive fall in the number of students studying there”.
According to Chief Education Officer, Shopian, Muhammad Sadiq, 130 schools in the district were clubbed after the government ordered the measure for schools with less than 20 students and those lacking accommodation or premises.
“Recently we un-clubbed several schools and restarted them at their original locations after the villagers provided enrolment figures of more than 20 students,” he said. He said the government has taken steps to retrieve enrolment numbers that had diminished over the past several years. “For this purpose we have started campaigning in villages through local teachers and parents,” he said. “As many as 130 schools will remain clubbed as they have no buildings or land available for raising buildings, but we have expectations that about 40 schools will be restarted at their original locations, through campaigning and awareness programs.”
Chief Education Officer, Pulwama, Mushtaq Ahmad told Kashmir Reader that 112 schools with low enrolment had been clubbed after vacating them from rented buildings, although about 36 schools still operated from such premises.
“These schools include middle and primary schools while the total number of clubbed schools is more than 200,” he said.
He added that they too have started an awareness campaign among the parents to admit their children to government schools.