Magam: In contrast with the School Education Department’s trumpeting the current financial as the “year of infrastructure”, Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Magam, in central Kashmir’s Budgam district, demonstrates the consistent official apathy towards schools in the Valley.
‘Upgraded’ almost a decade and half back in the year 2004 from high school to higher secondary, the infrastructure of the school, a few hundred metres away from the town’s main market, has ironically worsened all these years.
The enrolment of girls at the erstwhile high school, which used to be hardly up to 400, has now swelled to “over 1,400 students”, Rifat Hasan Qadri, Principal of the institution, told Kashmir Reader.
However, one of the school’s only two classroom blocks is flood-hit and has begun to crumble over the last three years.
In the other block, which has seven rooms, there is the principal’s chamber and the accounts section, leaving just five rooms for hundreds of students.
To add to the woes of the students and the school management as well, the ceiling of one of the classrooms on the building’s first floor where the principal’s chamber is, collapsed a few days ago.
“Students had a narrow escape that day. While they were leaving, the wooden ceiling, which has decayed over the years, suddenly collapsed,” Qadri recalled.
As the school management did not want to put the students at risk, “we dismantled the rest of the ceiling of all the classrooms ourselves to give it a repair”, a teacher added.
A few days back, Qadri said that she was left red-faced by the students over the acute space crunch at the school.
“There were some 1,000 students in attendance the other day. A large group of them were pushed to one side of a classroom and they angrily asked me where they should sit. What could I say?” Qadri told this reporter.
Given the schools central location, Qadri said that there was an extra burden in terms of student enrolment from adjacent areas, especially nearby Beerwah.
“We cannot deny them admission, can we?” she said.
Qadri said that they had even planned to buy water-proof tents on their own to accommodate students in them.
“But we came know that the tents are very expensive. We could not buy them,” she said.
The space crunch has forced the school administration to build a makeshift tin shed in front of one of the main blocks.
While one of the classroom blocks was flood-hit, Qadri said that rain water “seeps directly into the library block” at the school.
“But you can imagine the hardships we face inside the shed, especially during summer heat,” Mansoor Ahmad Khan, a teacher, complained.
“We are in suffocation. The school has space for around 400 students against the present enrolment. Even the streams available for the students are limited,” lamented Abdul Rashid Bhat, a teacher.
Even a science laboratory, “the main component for science stream”, is absent, added Bhat.
Admitting to the poor infrastructure at this school in particular and in Budgam district in general, Chief Education Officer, Srinagar, Abdul Ravouf Shahmari said that they needed “massive funding” to fix the educational infrastructure in the district.
“We have referred the deficiencies at schools in the district to the department… The Directorate of School Education has assured us funds would be released soon,” Shahmari added.