Monday, April 22, 2013

Govt schoolchildren gear up for another roofless summer

Deepa Sharma Sood, Hindustan Times
Ludhiana, April 02, 2013
Having spent months shivering in the morning chill, the 90 students of Government Primary School, Kutcha Number 16, Fieldganj, Ludhiana, cannot heave a sigh of relief even in summer.
The sunny mornings would prove to be of little respite to these children, as they spend day after day
in a school, which has no roof, classrooms, toilets or drinking water facility.

The students would have to go through another gruelling summer as temperatures reach 35 to 40 degrees, making it difficult to even sit on the floor, which is another problem, as debris of broken walls lie scattered on it. Established in 1929, the school has been functioning without these basic amenities since 1995. But the poor state of affairs has failed to move the state government.
Making matters worse, there are only four teachers handing Classes 1 to 5, coercing teachers to teach multiple classes simultaneously. That's not all. The school does not have an entrance gate or a proper boundary wall, allowing anybody to enter the school premises, leaving students and teachers unsafe. Stray animals also enter the school of free will, putting little children in jeopardy.
Students are also forced to spend the day among flies and stench, as the school ground has become an open garbage dump for nearby residents.
All this is in clear violation of the Right to Education Act, which mandates that every school have proper classrooms, toilets, drinking facility, let alone a roof in the school.

While the state government has been issuing notices to private schools for not implementing the RTE Act, it has turned a blind eye to its own schools.
Talking to Hindustan Times, a teacher, at the condition of anonymity, said, “The school ground has become a garbage dump, where nearby residents regularly throw garbage. Moreover, the boundary wall of the school has been broken for years, but nobody has bothered to repair it.”
The teacher added, “We face problems be it any season. While children shiver in the winter, they have to silently endure the scorching days as well. With no roof, rains make it impossible to hold classes, therefore school is closed during monsoon. Lack of infrastructure forces the school authorities to make the students sit on floor, which is also broken.”
She rued that the school did not even have proper drinking water facility or a toilet, compelling students to relieve themselves in the open, or go home.
When contacted, state education minister Sikander Singh Maluka, said, “The matter of the school land is sub judice, as some locals claim that they own the land, though it belongs to the government. But, we will take permission from the Punjab and Haryana high court to construct classrooms in the school. We will also work towards providing basic facilities, like drinking water, toilets and infrastructure in the school.”
Another schoolteacher, who wished not to be named, said, “We don't understand what is important for the higher authorities - land or education of these children. The government must shift the students to another school, which has at least basic facilities.”
What the law says
According to the RTE Act, each school must have at least one classroom per teacher, separate toilets for boys and girls, drinking water facility, kitchen where mid-day day meals are cooked, barrier-free access for disabled children and office-cum-store for the head teacher.

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