Educationists see a direct link between high dropout rates and absence of toilets in schools. It may sounds incredible, but that’s the bitter truth of a ‘happening’ city which takes pride in hosting global conferences
If you have tears, prepare to shed them now. Yes, the state of government schools in the city warrants an emotional outburst. If they remain unattractive and appalling, it is more for want of basic amenities than any pedagogic lapse.
Such minimum facilities like drinking water and toilets are a luxury in most schools. Electricity is also a rarity, with the result that computers donated by philanthropic organisations remain mere showpieces.
The other day, while launching as many as 355 model schools, Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy wanted the message to go out that government schools were second to none. But are they?
Poor infrastructure and dreary ambience are enough to drive children away. Educationists see a direct link between the high dropout rates and absence of toilets in schools. Sounds incredible, but that’s the bitter truth in the happening city which takes pride in hosting international conferences.
Figures speak out for themselves. In the last couple of years, district authorities were forced to shut down 115 primary schools across the city.
“There was zero strength in these schools, and so we had to close them,” admits Subba Reddy, District Education Officer (DEO), Hyderabad.
The mushrooming of private schools, many of them unrecognised, is a reason for poor enrolment in government schools. The city has 700 government schools and 300 aided ones. According to one estimate, there are 2,123 toilets in all. But only 582 are in use.
A good number of schools do not have toilets at all, and wherever they exist lack of maintenance has rendered them useless. The Rajiv Vidya Mission (RVM) provides a pittance of Rs. 500 per school a month for their upkeep, and there are no takers for it. In most schools there are no sweepers either. Children take turns cleaning up the place themselves. The mess left after the midday meal is seen to be believed. Of course, the little ones have to do the mop-up act.
“The maintenance grant should be raised to at least Rs. 3,000 per month so as to make it attractive to workers,” says Narayana, president, A.P. United Teachers’ Federation.
The absence of water facility is another reason why toilets cannot be used. In some schools the Water Board has disconnected supply for non-payment of bills. Government High School, Golconda, is a case in point. The government school at Mallepally also has no water connection and depends on borewell.
“Nearly 65 per cent of girls’ schools have no toilets,” says Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi. He wonders how the government expects female literacy rate to improve.
RVM approved 636 toilets during 2012-13, but just 30 have been constructed so far. The rest are still at a tender stage. It also sanctioned 240 toilets for girls but not even a single one was constructed. Similar is the case with toilets for children with special needs. Of the 53 approved, not a single one is ready yet.
It is not just students but teachers are also silent sufferers. “For the sake of drinking water or toilet children go home and many fail to turn up,” admit teachers. In some schools like Government High School, Goshamahal, teachers pooled money to construct toilets on their own.
“I have represented the matter to the District Collector several times but to no avail,” deplores Nampally MLA Virasat Rasool Khan. With the monsoon getting active, schools functioning in run-down buildings are in for trouble. Government High School, Humayun Nagar II, Asifnagar, functions in rented premises and is in a pretty bad condition. “It might collapse anytime,” fears Mr. Khan.
This is not the only problem plaguing government schools in Hyderabad. Multiple schools functioning from the same premises are unique to the city. For instance, Government High School, Asifnagar, Government Primary School, Kagaziguda, and Government Primary School, Pule Khadeem, function from the same premises in Tappachabutra. The result: chaos and congestion rule the roost.
Not long ago, there were instances of two classes functioning from the same room. One could well imagine the level of concentration and the quality of teaching. So much for Right to Education.