R. Sujatha

The Government runs 19 institutions but only seven of them are functioning

CHENNAI: Of the 25 schools in Mathur panchayat, sandwiched between Madhavaram and Manali municipalities in north Chennai, only a handful are functional, most of them private establishments.

Of the 19 government institutions, including 11 nursery, six primary and two high schools, only seven are functioning. They include three nursery and primary schools and one high school. The schools were built under a World Bank scheme in 1992 for children in surrounding villages.

The rest were put up for public auction on August 8, 2004 but since "there is no response it is proposed to conduct re-auction for the remaining schools," says a release of the Tamil Nadu Housing Board (TNHB) dated October 4, 2004.

The single-storey Government high school on Third Main Road in Mathur is today a home for cattle. Children and youth play cricket on the dry, cobbled schoolyard.

The entrance to the 1.5-acre school is slushy. Sewage flows into the school grounds from an open manhole near the compound.

Inside the school, windows, doors and electrical wiring are missing. The cement flooring in the classrooms are two-inch deep in cow dung. The toilets have been damaged. The first floor is relatively clean because it is used by gamblers, residents said. The white walls and the blackboards in all the 12 classrooms contain obscene graffiti.

A college student said: "Sometime ago, men brought some women. We shooed them away." Since then the students play cricket to guard the school. Shards of bottle glass on the school premises are indication that the building is used for other purposes.

B. Tirugnanam, president of TNHB Colony Residents' Consumer Protection Awareness Welfare Association, said the Rotary Club of Guindy offered to renovate the school with the panchayat's permission.

The Club built urinals and toilets for the Puzhal Union Middle School with a student strength of 752. But the headmaster has not allowed students to use them, allege residents. Four months ago, a primary school on the Electricity Board Road in Mathur was handed over to the North Madras Merchants' Cooperative Society. The residents appealed to the Society, which said that since the building was given away free of cost they would set up shop there. The school has been painted and maintained well, though the road leading to it is overflowing with sewage and is infested with mosquitoes.