SRINAGAR: Launched in J&K in the year 2003, schools under the Sarava Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) are operating without paying any rent to the owners of the buildings.
The SSA is a flagship programme of the Government of India to ensure universal elementary education, with added goals of universal access and retention, bridging gender and social category gaps, and enhancement of learning levels of children.
The goals also include opening of new schools, alternate schooling facilities, construction of new schools, and provision of drinking water facilities and textbooks.
When the programme was started in Kashmir, the government rented many buildings in Kashmir and paid an amount of Rs 200 per month as rent. The same was increased to 1,000 rupees from 2008.
However, since 2012, the Zonal Education Offices have not received any funds for the rent of SSA schools. The withholding of rent has “alienated the owners” of the buildings, sources said.
The teaching staff in SSA schools are continuously “facing trouble” from the building owners who are asking them to vacate the schools, the sources added.
Officials at the Zonal Education Office Nishat, which covers the whole eastern area from Dalgate to Harwan Dara in Srinagar and also the schools in Dal Lake area, told Kashmir Reader that they have “sent the data” regarding rent liability to senior officers but are “not getting any response”.
“In the past we used to send the rent liability data to the CEO office every year, but there was no response from them. In the past six years, only once have we received an amount of 10,000 rupees which we paid to just one owner who was asking the teachers to vacate the building,” an official said. “We have to face tremendous problems and teachers are suffering the most because they have to face the owners on daily basis.”
To tackle the issue, the education department had to club many rented schools with the schools owned by the department in some areas to save rent.
Zonal Education Officer Nishat, Qamr-ul-Nisa, termed the issue as a “grave concern”.
“This type of situation is difficult to avoid. The owners have not received any rent in years, so they are forcing us to vacate the buildings. We tried to manage it for some time but now we are helpless,” Nisa said.
“The teachers are suffering very much and are under huge mental stress because they have to face the owners every day. They are receiving warnings from the owners to leave the buildings,” she said.
The SSA programme has been in news for some time as the teachers recruited under the programme are continuously protesting at not receiving their salaries. They are demanding de-linking of their salaries from the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) to the state treasury.