Kashmir Architecture School students boycott classes over lack of ‘infrastructure’

SRINAGAR: Students at Kashmir School of Architecture have boycotted classes against what they said an acute dearth of teaching faculty and infrastructure. The aggrieved students have now demanded shifting the institution under the control of the Kashmir University, whichsaid the institution had to be transferred into its purview along with assets and liabilities if at all the government wanted them to own it. The School of Architecture, which was set up in 2017 amid a rising demand for the Bachelor’s in Architecture course operated inside the premises of Abdul Ahad Azad Memorial Degree College, Bemina until last year. This year, the Higher Education Department again shifted the institution temporarily to Government College of Engineering and Technology, Safapora in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district even as land for the school’s campus has been allotted in the vicinity of the engineering college. But students at the school alleged that the shift had hardly changed any fortunes for them as there had been no expansion of infrastructure at the institution even as student enrolment had increased by three times. The School of Architecture, they said, has 90 students from 3 batches with the institution all set to admit yet another batch of students this year. The Safapora engineering college where the architecture school has been shifted is still without a compound wall with the students complaining that the institution also “lacks facilities as basic as washrooms, water and electricity”. The students also accused authorities of deceiving them saying that they were assured by that they would be shifted to the Safapora engineering college only once the faculty and infrastructure was in place. At the Safapora engineering college, they have been allotted a lone lecture hall and two studios- a facility they already availed at the Bemina Degree College adding that taking classes there was “next to impossible as the campus is highly undeveloped and still under construction, which makes the site dysfunctional”. As per the students, an architectural school must have a floor area of 15sqm/student and needs to have lecture rooms, dedicated studio spaces to each batch of students, faculty rooms, workshop spaces, laboratories and material museums. “Our college doesn’t only fall short of meeting these requirements, but is far from them,” they alleged. They further alleged that against the recommended teacherstudent ratio of 1: 8, “we have 2 architectural faculties for 90 students of three batches, making the ratio a poor 1:45 which is very far from the requirements”. The students said that they were expected to use studios in shifts, which is why they were asking for an extension of infrastructure in the first place. They said they had been “prematurely” shifted to the college, which was still under construction and “located on a far-flung hill, connected by a 2.5 km unmetalled uphill track inaccessible by public transport. It is a deserted way and one feels insecure while travelling on foot”. “Also, the site is a mining area with regular quarrying activity going on,” they added. The students further complained that the Higher Education Department had also failed to appoint a permanent faculty including a full time principal to the Architecture School. The SOA, they informed, has 3 faculty members with architectural background and 2 non-architectural teachers, all associate professors on contractual basis. The students demanded that the School of Architecture be taken over by the Kashmir University, which, as per them, had no objection to own them. “We have represented to the VC, Kashmir University requesting to accommodate us in the Zakura campus of the University as it has sufficient infrastructure to accommodate us. The university has no objection in doing so. They are ready to pass a noobjection, in case the government asks them to do so,” they said in a statement. “Since our examination and admissions fall under the domain of KU, its control will lead to conduction of academic activities effectively,” they added. Registrar KU, Prof Nisar Ahmad Mirtold Kashmir Reader that they were ready to take over the School of Architecture provided it is accompanied by the transfer of the institution’s assets and liabilities. Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan said he will look into the matter. Secretary Higher Education, Talat Parvez Rohella does not feel it ideal for the School of Architecture be shifted elsewhere more importantly when its own campus was being built at Safapora and in view of the upcoming inspection by the Council of Architecture. Parvez added that they were ready to shift the students to KU’s Zakura campus over their demand.

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