Hyderabad: An apparent confusion over rules on who should maintain government and local body school buildings in Telangana has led to a sorry state of affairs, where a large number of classrooms are now on the verge of collapsing for want of maintenance and repairs, in turn casting a shadow over the safety of students.
As per the Panchayat Raj Act, it is the responsibility of the local body, i.e., the Gram Panchayat, Mandal Parishad or Zilla Parishad, to set up and run schools and libraries in rural areas, while the responsibility of government schools in urban areas is with the Roads & Buildings Department. However, both these departments have allegedly shirked their responsibility and passed on the mantle to the cash-strapped School Education Department, which is struggling to maintain the classrooms.
The result, according to a physical status report of classrooms prepared by the School Education Department for internal purposes, after inspecting 21,669 government schools and local body schools, is that the condition of more than half of the classrooms in these schools was not just pathetic, but dangerous as well.
The report states that 10,355 classrooms were in ‘dismantling condition’ while 16,267 required major repair works. The risk factor in such classrooms, with the monsoon just round the corner, goes without saying. The report also points out that these schools have over 1.19 lakh classrooms, out of which only 52,000 were usable while more than 39,000 needed minor repairs.
The situation was not restricted to remote areas or economically backward areas, but even in the capital district, which has 4,889 classrooms in 540 schools, out of which just 2,630 rooms were ‘usable’. The number of rooms in dismantling condition was 202.
The situation was worst in Kamareddy, which had 781 classrooms in dismantling conditions, followed by Sangareddy district where nearly 770 classrooms were in total ruins. The report says that several school buildings have run down beyond the point of repair due to lack of maintenance.
And when the number of ‘unusable’ rooms is so high, the number of new rooms that are under construction is just 1,151.
Pointing out that most of the schools did not have sufficient infrastructural facilities or amenities, including labs, staff rooms and even toilets, the report says construction of additional classrooms and labs at government schools were being sanctioned in an unscientific manner, which was resulting in ‘mushrooming’ of excess rooms in some schools, while in many other schools, there was a deficiency of classrooms.
At the same time, the construction of the buildings was done without any ‘proper elevation’, resulting in dull appearances, with the designs not showing any response to pedagogical aspects of a school. There was no master plan for schools, which was why newly sanctioned works were done haphazardly without following norms and spoiling available space.
“The local bodies and the R&B Department are not taking up the maintenance of the buildings and are not providing infrastructure facilities like additional classrooms, furniture, toilets etc. With funds from some Central schemes, the School Education directorate has taken up some maintenance works, construction of classrooms and toilets. But it has to be remembered that the support from the Centre is temporary,” an official said.
Misery for girl students
The situation of girl students in many of these schools is miserable, if the report is anything to go by. “Due to general budgetary constraints and various administrative reasons, toilets were constructed using inferior specifications and without any proper analysis. There is no proper cleaning or maintenance and most of the toilets are now defunct and in irreparable condition, “it says.
“The adolescent girl children in high schools are facing lot of hardships due to lack of proper toilets and sanitation facilities. The girls are unable to express their hardships and sufferings and this is one of the prime reasons for dropouts in schools, especially among girl children,” the report adds.
App to help collect details
Soon, an app will be launched that will help in collecting infrastructural details of all government and local body schools. So far, the information related to schools is being gathered using the Unified District Information on School Education reports, for which a survey is done annually by deploying cluster resource persons. This time, details of the particular school have to be validated by the headmaster concerned before uploading onto the app. “The validated information gathered through the app will be sent to the government and necessary grants will be sought for taking up construction or repair works of the school buildings,” a senior official said.