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Why there are no students in J&K's government schools

Naseer Ganai
Naseer GanaiApr 13, 2015 | 13:46

Why there are no students in J&K's government schools

In 2005, a government high school in uptown Srinagar had eight students and 15 teachers in the matric class and five students in the others. That year, in the matriculation examination, all eight students had failed and a day after the result, the lead headline of a local newspaper read, "15 +8 = 0 result, a Srinagar school repeats fail history for 6th year."

Ten years down the line, nothing has changed.

The new education minister of the state, Naeem Akhtar, says there are government schools across the state that have zero student population. In Jammu district alone, there are 26 such schools. Meanwhile, in Kathua, there are six while neighbouring Samba has seven such schools. In Srinagar, 19 government schools have no student while other districts in Kashmir too have zero enrollment - for instance, there are 12 such schools in Budgam, 24 in Pulwama, 15 in Kargil and 18 in Kupwara. There is no regional discrimination on this account.

These schools have been sanctioned by successive governments to generate employment in their constituencies without taking into consideration that the schools need students as well. Apart from others, daughters-in-law, spouses and daughters of bureaucrats are posted as teachers in these schools in Srinagar and Jammu. These are places where they gossip. Some schools have five teachers against three students, or 11 teachers for five students - a situation prevalent in almost every district of the state. In Gurez, near the Line of Control (LoC), for a strength of less than 3,000, there are around 200 government schools. What an idea to generate employment!

Looking at the speed at which the state is sanctioning government-run schools, soon each house in Jammu and Kashmir will have one government school for income generation, even as it sends its children to private schools. J&K has a total number of 24,265 schools. The schools have 1.43 lakh teachers and the annual budget allocated for them is more than Rs 6,000 crore. But the performance of the government-run schools is such that people prefer to pay lakhs to private schools for admission instead of enrolling their wards in state-run schools.

In all private schools across J&K, the salary of teachers is far less than what the government pays its teachers - those teaching at private schools earn between Rs 1500 to Rs 8000 per month at the senior level. There are no other benefits. Yet, the performance of the private schools is far better. Why? Because there is accountability and responsibility in private schools. People pay lakhs as admission fee and monthly fee to private schools, knowing their children will get quality education there as opposed to government schools, where the salary is huge, but there are few students.

There are scores of teachers in government schools who are enjoying their life in Gulf countries and the benevolent J&K government continues to pay their salaries each month without break. Instead of reforming the system and taking some measures to make the government schools accountable, responsible and attractive for the larger population, the minister says, he would have four model schools, two in Jammu and two in Srinagar to make government schools attractive.

These model schools, according to him, will set an example for other government schools to emulate. The minister said that he would issue one laptop each for every headmaster so students living in far-off villages what the device is all about, and not even mind showing them films on such laptops.

Now imagine what the headmaster of a "student-less" school do with the laptop. The plight of students in government schools and the way they are being treated by well paid teachers needs to be addressed. Four proposed model schools of the government cannot do anything for anyone. They would be like government hospitals where only the rich and mighty get the best treatment because of their connections, while the underprivileged are just looked at disdainfully.

Why cannot the government make each state-run school a model school? The school education department runs the biggest employment union of the state. For long, this employee union has gone on strikes and protests to demand the implementation of the sixth pay commission, an increase in the retirement age from 58 to 60 and other several other issues. The government has conceded to all these demands. The Union has never shown any concern over the deteriorating standards of the government schools. It has never protested over poor results of their schools - it feels no shame for that.

Both in Jammu as well as Kashmir, all government-run schools should be turned into model schools. They shouldn't act as resting rooms for mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law of top officials of the state. The state should go to its people, both underprivileged and rich, to motivate them to enroll their children in government-run schools. It must advertise where these thousands of government schools are and the government must ensures such schools don't function from crumbling buildings.

No one has time to see how four model schools among 25,000 would set an example. All the 25,000 should be an example for the private sector. Steps should taken ensure its effectiveness and there is no harm if the state brings in a legislation that no private school should enroll a child of a government employee. Once government employees start sending their children to state schools run by highly qualified government teachers, things will start moving forward in the state. And if government can't even do this, it must at least ensure that government school teachers enroll their sons and daughters at their institutions.

That is only way things can improve. Four model schools is a mere wastage of resources.

Last updated: April 13, 2015 | 13:46
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