Tucked between two band-saw mills, Kulgam school exposes students to health risks

Tucked between two band-saw mills, Kulgam school exposes students to health risks
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MOTELHAMA: Imagine the effects on your health and mental well-being if you were made to sit through the day between two band-saw mills with roaring diesel generators.
Or, worse, if you were made to study amid the din of these mills and your whole school vibrated from the force of these mills and their generators.
This is exactly what the little students of this Government Middle School in Motelhama village of Zone Qaimoh here in Kulgam district go through every day, without fail.
The school, which runs from a rented accommodation, is tucked between two band-saw mills, and the roar affects not only the children’s studies but their health as well.
The school has a total roll of 258 students, both girls and boys, and most of them are too young to be able to bear the continuous roar and vibration of the band-saw mills.
Sources in the school said that the whole building shakes with the force of these mills and their ever-running generators.
“The students cannot hear what the teachers are saying and vice versa,” a source told Kashmir Reader, adding that the whole school building vibrates with the force of the diesel generators.
Given the power supply status in Kashmir, the diesel generators, sources say, run pretty much the whole day.
“Over the years, one official after another visiting the school has acknowledged what the students are going through, but no one has taken any action to amend the wrong,” sources told Kashmir Reader.
Such high-decibel noise can damage children’s health in more ways than one.
Experts say continuous exposure to loud noise can have detrimental long-term effects on both health and behaviour, including high stress levels, hypertension, hearing loss, sleep disturbances and tinnitus (perception of noise ringing in the ears).
The Head of the Department, Social and Preventive Medicine, Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar, Dr Saleem Khan, acknowledged that such exposure to noise can damage kids’ health.
“It can cause attention deficit, anxiety and it can affect their respiratory system, given the air pollution these mills cause. The performance of these students will nose dive over the years,” Khan said.
He added that anxiety, as we all know, can have serious health implications in the longer run.
The question remains, why are these kids, all below middle-school level, being exposed to such hazards without anyone in the department blinking an eyelid.
And, ironically, it is not a recent phenomenon. The school has been running like this for years now.
As per sources in the department, the school was established way back in 1958 and was upgraded to a middle school in 2003.
While most of the schools in Kulgam district have been shifted over the years to their own buildings, this one school in Motelhama continues to run from a rented accommodation despite the high risks for students studying here.
The reason being, sources said, that the rented building the school runs from is owned by the local Auqaaf Committee.
“The Committee gets a rent of around Rs 9,600 per year, and it’s hard for them to part ways with the money. Proposal for a dedicated building for the school has been floated several times, but some influential people in the area always object,” sources said.
Teachers in the district whom Kashmir Reader talked to called the silence of the officials over the issue criminal.
“What if their own kids were studying in this school? Will they expose their own kids to such risks?” the teachers asked.
The sad part is only children of people from lower-income strata go to government schools these days, while the kids of the rich and influential, who are the people opposing the construction of a new building, enjoy the peaceful environs of private schools.
“These kids do not have an option but to study at the school, for their parents cannot afford a private school,” a local told Kashmir Reader.
Joint Director South of the Education Department, Abid Hussain, said he was not aware of the plight of these young kids and asked for the more details of the school.
“I am in Kulgam right now and if you send me the details of the school I can intimate the Chief Education Officer straightaway,” Hussain said.
This reporter did forward the details of the school to Hussain. It remains to be seen whether any action will be taken to take these kids out of misery.