The government lower primary schools in Basappanakatte and Siddhartha Nagar, both in Peenya II Stage, are lessons in how schools ought not to be run.
The school at Basappanakatte has two rooms for students from standards one to five. While two classes are run within the school building, three classes are run in the single-room community hall adjoining the school. Running along the school is an open sewage, frothing with industrial affluent.
The school at Siddhartha Nagar, a slum which was gutted in 2005 and rebuilt, is jostling for space with 165 crammed tenements. This too is a single-room school with 60 students.
The three qualified teachers here were appointed under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and have the latest teaching material of “Nali-Kali” programme. But the space available is not conducive for even traditional teaching, let alone any experimental method. Students of fourth standard sit in the open, but have nowhere to go when it rains. This school too has a stream of industrial affluent running close by.
There are three government-run schools in Peenya II Stage. Of them, the one at Yagganahalli alone, on Sunkatadakatte Main Road, is well-equipped and situated in hygienic surroundings.
The SSA schemes may have improved the funding and infrastructure for government schools on the whole. But schools such as the ones in Basappanakatte and Siddhartha Nagar indicate that those in the suburbs of the city continue to be neglected. This is all the more striking because children in industrial areas such as Peenya, which has a large population of migrant and unorganised industrial workers, are first-generation literates. Most of them belong to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
The authorities in both these schools say that funds for additional classrooms are not in short supply, if only land can be identified to build them on. This problem exposes another murky area, related to real estate issues.
Gangappa N., an activist with the Human Rights Forum for Dalit Liberation (HRFDL), says that as many as three acres of government land around the school in Basappanakatte was “appropriated” by realtors with the connivance of politicians and bureaucrats.
“It is not that there is no land, only that there is no land for the poor, especially poor children,” he ruefully adds.
The case in Siddhartha Nagar is even more curious because the real estate dealer, who built the school and the huts after the slum (situated on KIADB land) was burnt down, has also built for himself a shop adjoining the school, taking up the space of at least one more classroom.
According to a study done by HRFDL, the entire Peenya II Stage industrial area has three schools and two anganwadi centres. Ward numbers 34 and 35 of Peenya and Dasarahalli have a total population of 97,550, with 26,050 children.
“The number of schools and anganwadis for this population is too low and the condition in the existing schools is bad,” says Basavaraj Kowthal of HRFDL.
The lone anganwadi in Basappanakatte is another testimony to neglect, though it has adequate supply of foodgrains for the midday meal. The teacher here says that she pays Re. 1 for a pot of water out of her salary because the groundwater here is too polluted to drink. This is the common fate of the entire locality, thanks to contamination through industrial wastes. Children at Basappanakatte primary school also get no drinking water in their school.
If the test of government’s educational schemes and funding is the condition of schools, two out of three schools in Peenya II Stage do not make the grade.