In the age of Information Technology and Digital India, schools in the picturesque Langate region are craving for basic necessities like potable water, washrooms and sports equipment, leaving students at the mercy of nature and man-made tragedies.
By Sajad Ahmed Lone
Langate in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district has a population of 80,000. Half of the population is located at very high altitudes. It has beautiful locales, most of them breathtaking. But a peep into the lives of people depicts backwardness, both social and economic as well as low human development. In the age of Information Technology, synonymous to Computer Age, Digital Age or New Media Age, the area has no access to modern digital era technologies.
Contemporary facilities, be it transport, electricity and communication, are very poor. The education sector too is lagging but the government efforts are showing up good results. The government has established a grid of schools in the Langate zone and in place are at least 151 government schools including primary, middle, secondary and higher secondary level institutions.
Authorities in Langate have played a crucial role in getting pupils to schools. In last three years, the government middle school in Nahama has seen increase in roll from 15 to 70 students. Similarly, the government middle school in Kralgund zone of Langate had 50 students in 2013 which grew to 150 students at present. The hard work put in by teachers and allied staff seems to be paying off.
Rukhsana, a female teacher from Nahama Middle School is all praise for ZEO Langate and his team. “They have taken many proactive steps and carried out frequent inspections in our zone which has resulted in activeness among teachers for student welfare,” she says.
Another example is that of a middle school in Gundkamal, a village bereft of any means of communication. The school lacks infrastructure, accommodation, potable water, washrooms, fencing and playgrounds but, despite these shortcomings, the teachers are punctual and try their best to impart better education to the students.
According to research, the middle school in the schedule tribe village of Gundkamal Quaziabad is housed in a building made of mud. The building is in a very poor condition but the teachers are still attending classes because they have no other option. A teacher, Sajad Ahmad, told me they even take classes in the kitchen, a tin-shed.
A cursory visit to a number of other schools in Langate zone reveals lack of basic facilities like infrastructure, accommodation, potable water and washrooms. At middle school in Hajin village, the government has built a three-roomed building four years ago but it has not been handed over to the school authorities. One of the school teacher said the PWD department built a washroom but it too has not been handed over to the school authorities for several years.
There are other schools in Langate zone where students are facing myriad problems on account of washrooms for boys and girls, potable water, besides fencing and shortage of playgrounds. According to research, more than 70 percent schools are facing such problems and the students can’t carry out physical activities which is a part and parcel of their school curriculum.
A student of Rengpath secondary school while talking to Kashmir Scan said that in the school timetable, one hour is reserved for physical activities but due to uneven surface of the ground they are unable to conduct any sort of physical activity.
He said the school is located at a very high altitude, so it takes more than 20 minutes to bring the football or cricket ball back when hit hard. There are no peons in some schools due to which teachers are forced to carry out cleaning process themselves. “Ringing the bell at intervals is also done by teachers,” said Headmaster of a school, Abdul Majeed Dar.
Similarly, most of the government schools of Langate zone are unfenced, near the highways and located at very high altitudes, resulting in frequent accidents. Senior master, Mohd Afzal Mir, of Secondary School Renen told Kashmir Scan that his school is located on roadside, at very high altitude and without fencing.
“Last year during the lunch time a female student Shazia Akhtar was hit by a speedy vehicle which left her critically injured and there are various other cases like this,” he said, adding that the school lacks a playground as three kanals of school land is illegally occupied by local farmers.
When contacted ZEO of Langate , Aga Abdul Rashid said there are some buildings which need repair. “In this regard, we have already contacted Deputy Commissioner Kupwara to take immediate steps but action is still awaited,” he said. Similarly, he said, from last two years, the government has not provided a single penny for furniture, black boards, matting, etc.
Asked about the absence of fencing and illegal occupation of school lands, he admitted that fencing is a core issue. “We have already brought the issue into the notice of concerned authorities”. About illegal occupation of school lands, he said: “Yes there are cases where in some areas farmers have illegally occupied school land and are now demanding compensation. But we have already asked them to vacate the school land and if they will not, then we will act accordingly.”
Not only on academic front, the schools are facing huge shortage of sports equipment and there is shortage of Physical Education teachers too. According to reports, only 15 physical teachers are available in 63 middle schools while there is only one physical teacher available in four secondary schools. An official in Physical Education department of Langate zone admitted that there is acute shortage of teachers, shortage of playgrounds and sports equipment.
“Last year the government provided us eight cricket bats, 14 volleyballs, six Baseballs and 18 badminton rackets which is actually a mockery given that we have 151 schools in the zone,” he said, However, he was quick to add that the department is in touch with concerned authorities to provide adequate facilities so that physical activities can be started at these schools.
Despite shortcomings in infrastructure, the Physical Education department has won a National Award in Baseball and many other awards in other sports in district and intra-district competitions. It is time the authorities address the concerns of the students who are skilled and need proper guidance so that they can bring laurels for not only Langate but the state as well as the country.
Note: Research in the story was conducted some months ago.