‘We’ve taught 8 classes in a single room ever since the ’14 flood’

‘We’ve taught 8 classes in a single room ever since the ’14 flood’
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Govt apathy keeps Khag schools still awaiting repair

BUDGAM: While the authorities are claiming to have developed infrastructure at government-run schools in the valley, most institutions here in Education Zone Khag in Budgam district exhibit stark contradictions to their claims.
For instance, Middle School Shoplian, a tribal school located in the middle of woods, was damaged by heavy snowfall in 2017. However, repairs undertaken by the authorities have been inadequate, forcing the school’s students to pursue their education in cramped conditions, which has led to frequent dropouts.
The same is the case with a few other schools which were damaged years ago. The authorities concerned have constantly been lax in carrying out repair work.
“The authorities have literally failed to provide a conducive learning environment to the students of this area despite their tall promises,” a teacher, who requested anonymity, rued.
The situation is worsened in winter – students are frequently found huddled on the floor on rugs instead of chairs, shivering in the bone-chilling cold. Also common at these schools are verandahs covered in accumulated snow and leaky roofs patched together with mangled tin sheets and broken wooden beams. All of these have hampered schooling to a large extent.
The students of this government-run school are worried at the little space available to accommodate them. “We have been studying under the open sky in the chilling cold and in the scorching summers for over two years now,” a student said, adding that the school’s roof collapsed two years ago due to heavy snow.
Highlighting the concerns of the students and teachers, local resident Mohammed Ali said, “This is a government school with 55 students. In 2017, its roof got damaged during snowfall. Since then, no one bothered to repair it. Our students are turning illiterate with each passing day.”
Another of the school’s students also shared her concerns and said, “We sit in the snow-covered lawn and face a lot of problems. We want our school to be repaired.”
“Ours is a tribal area and has been neglected by successive governments,” she said. “We have been shivering in the cold since day one, but who cares?”
She added that almost five feet of snow is still accumulated in the school’s lawn, “but the Education Department is paying no heed to our miseries”.
Another tribal primary school in Razemarag works out of a three-room building which was damaged in recent snowfall. Though repairs have started, they are proceeding at a snail’s pace. The school is currently running from a single room.
Another school struggling under the apathy of the Education Department is Government Middle School Khawaja-Gund. Damaged in the 2014 floods, the school is functioning in a small space and still awaits reconstruction.
With the school’s roof, walls, ceilings and furniture all damaged in the September 2014 flood, its students today still attend classes here, despite the risk to their lives posed by the dilapidated structure.
Over the last five years, the school’s teachers have been taking classes in a single room. “Our school was damaged by the flood and was declared unsafe by the Education Department the same year. From that day on, we are teaching eight classes in a single room,” a teacher said, wishing not to be named.
“The school has to be closed whenever there is rain. The students’ education is suffering. We have been teaching in a single room, but that is not adequate. Eight classes cannot be taught properly in one room. The students can’t even fit into that room and mostly have to sit outside,” he added.
Meanwhile, the school heads have been intimiating the concerned Zonal Education Officer frequently as to their continuing plight, but there has been no positive response.
“We have requested the officials many times, but they are paying no heed to our pleas,” they said.
Chief Education Officer Budgam Fatima Banoo did not respond to repeated calls and texts.