Srinagar: Teachers rather than students vie to get into two government schools that provide plum postings in the posh centre of Srinagar. With barely any students to teach – and the students mostly children of domestic helps or from ‘nomadic communities’ – the teachers here have found not just a nice resting place but a lucrative one, their fat salaries coming from the “Prime Minister’s Package”.
Welcome to the Government Boys Middle School and Government Girls Middle School, operating inside VIP residential quarters at Tulsi Bagh near the Bakhshi Stadium. If it were not for the two sign boards, anybody would consider the two buildings as another set of VIP apartments. The security here indeed suggests so. Only after you keep your identification card with the security guards, either at the gate on the Solina side or on the Bakhshi Stadium side, can you walk past the gates.
Last Friday, at the boys’ school, a middle-aged man who later turned out to be a teacher posted at the school under the ‘Prime Minister’s Package’, without speaking a word as his mouth was preoccupied with chewing ‘gutkha’, pointed towards the chair in his office probably asking this reporter to have a seat.
Minutes later, the Head Teacher of the institution, Waheeda Akhter, came in with what she called the “kachcha chiththa” (report card) of the institution, saying herself that it must be what the reporter is after.
As of July 6, she informed, the school had 16 teachers for approximately as many students enrolled here. “There are 5 general line teachers and as many teachers posted here under the PM Package,” she informed.
The enrolment at the school was 40 earlier, Akhter said, but 23 of them – all from the nomadic Gujjar and Bakerwal community – were on June 18 shifted to the nearby hostel meant for the community on the orders of former Education Minister Chowdhry Zulfikar.
“But they are enrolled with us. We have sent our two teachers to the hostel to teach them,” she said.
As many as 19 students from Gujjar and Bakerwal community enrolled at the school only in June this year. “One was referred by the Commissioner and one by the Director School Education Kashmir” a school insider revealed.
To teach the remaining 17 students, Akhter said, there were “16 teachers”. Although Akhter claimed that a few students from the vicinity were also enrolled at the school, this reporter did not come across a single such student.
“The local students are either Nepalese or children of domestic helps,” Akhter herself conceded.
She said that “majority of the enrolled students” at the school comprised Gujjar and Bakerwal students from far-off places in the valley.
Well-placed sources revealed to Kashmir Reader that the twin schools inside the VIP quarters had long been used by the School Education Department to accommodate politically affiliated teachers and students.
The meagre number of students enrolled at the twin schools, sources said, are children of domestic helps of the VIPs living at Tulsi Bagh quarters.
Of the teachers at GBMS Tulsi Bagh, NC leader Sharif-ud-Din Shariq’s daughter, the daughter-in-law of PDP leader AR Veeri, and another influential teacher have not been transferred for the past “5-20 years”, sources revealed.
The “influential teacher”, a resident of Bhaderwah in Jammu province and “on leave presently”, had been “adjusted” at the school through an inter-provincial transfer years ago, the sources said.
Of these three teachers, Akhter said, they have been posted here “on security basis after court orders”.
At Government Girls Middle School (GGMS), Tulsi Bagh, just next to GBMS, the headmistress of the institution is the wife of NC leader Nazir Gurezi. Another teacher has not been transferred for the past many years, a source told Kashmir Reader.
The latter, as per the source, “is a regularised Rehbar-e-Taleem teacher (RRT)”.
The RRT teachers, as per norms, cannot be transferred from the primary school where they are originally posted.
Denying at first that any influential teacher had been overstaying at the school, Headmistress GGMS, Fatima Banu, told this reporter over phone that, “There are three or four who are here on health or security grounds.”
“When their names come up, they are defamed”, Banu said of the teachers overstaying at the girls middle school.
For the 34 students formally enrolled at GGMS Tulsi Bagh, the school has 10 teachers and “4-5 teachers on attachment”, as per Banu.
“We had (more) students here, but they were shifted to the girls’ hostel in Rajbagh. However, their enrolment is with us,” she said.
Asked why students from the vicinity were so few at the school, Banu said, “The gate behind the school has been closed after Ghulam Nabi Lone (then Education Minister) was killed. People prefer other schools since then.”
On the twin government schools operating from VIP residential quarters, she said, “That is the government’s say. We have to perform our duty.”
Talking to Kashmir Reader, Chief Education Officer Srinagar, Mudassir Kaleem Fazli, said, “You yourself say there are VIPs living there. What can we do then?”
“I have to take permission from higher-ups before talking to the media. Otherwise, I am open to the media. But what can I say on this?” he said.
Asked why local students at the two schools were in minority, Fazli said, “See, it is a VIP colony. The residential quarters of ministers are there. Normally, local residents are less in number there.”
Fazli dodged questions over influential teachers overstaying at the two schools for the past several years.
Zonal Education Officer, Batmaloo, Nusrat Jahan said she does not know why the twin schools are running from VIP quarters. “I do not know why they have been opened there. Maybe it is for the children of the officers residing there,” she said.
Asked about teachers overstaying at the schools, Jahan said, “All of them are there on security basis because VIPs are residing there. Their relatives are attached there.”
The attached teachers at the twin schools, as per Jahan, were being relieved after the government’s recent orders.
Director School Education Kashmir, GN Itoo, did not respond to calls made by this reporter.