A RARE SCHOOL
Kashmir Life|March 28, 2021
Curriculum, poor infrastructure and unimpressive service in public schools are pushing parents to enrol their wards in the private sector schools. This is despite the fact that Jammu and Kashmir invests more than Rs 12000 crore in the education sector and has the best human resource. Now teachers of a south Kashmir government school are investing their blood and sweat to undo the trend by reimagining their school, Saifullah Bashir and Shakir Ashraf reports
Saifullah Bashir, Shakir Ashraf 

With falling enrolment being a growing concern in the government-run schools along with lack of facilities driving away more students from the public sector schools, a Government Middle School (GMS) nestled in Tral’s Naibugh village has come up with an innovative and unique idea. The staff purchased a cab out of their own money to woo more students to the school.

The decision of teachers was prompted following this year’s decision by the Jammu and Kashmir School Education Department to conduct enrolment drives across to improve the enrolment.

“Many people accepted our invitation but everyone was demanding transport facility as they couldn’t send their wards to our school,” said Muzaffar Ahmed, a teacher at GMS Naibugh Tral.

Keeping in view the public demand, teachers of GMS Naibugh held a meeting under Headmaster Sunil Kumar Koul. They finally came up with a plan where they unanimously agreed to contribute to buy a cab out of their own pockets.

Koul, a resident from neighbouring Dadsara, led the move by donating one lakh rupees from his own pocket. “When a government employee’s child can get good facilities, why cannot a poor man’s child at least get a van?” Koul said, adding that more such initiatives can be taken to attract students to the public sector.

Following Koul’s path, other teachers of the school came forward to donate resulting in a collection of additional Rs 1.50 lakh for buying a cab. In a couple of days, the school was able to generate a total of Rs 2.7 lakh among themselves.

“It was a blessing from God. We just started the initiative not knowing whether we would achieve our goal or not. But we have been able to start a good fight,” Koul said.

To keep the service running, the teachers are contributing Rs 1000 on monthly basis for fuel costs, driver’s salary, and other expenses.

“We have opened an account under the name of Teachers Welfare Fund. The money is automatically debited from our bank accounts,” Muzaffar said.

A GOOD RESPONSE

The innovative initiative is drawing more attention of parents in the area with some of them terming it a “noble initiative”.

“Within days we received 39 new admissions. We are hopeful it will increase in the coming days,” Ahmed added. The initiative has led the residents to talk about something that teachers never considered – ‘if teachers can contribute from their own salaries, they are serious people and would teach their wards better’.

Residents said the initiative has been a welcome change for the government schools in the area which otherwise are in the news for negative things only.

On daily basis, the school cab covers 50 km to and fro, attracting other students towards the school.

“Roads in our village are in dilapidated conditions and during bad weather, it becomes difficult to walk. So, this step would definitely bring ease to us,” said Fatima, an eighth standard of the school.

ENROLLMENT CRISIS

The number of students has been a crisis in most of the public sector schools as the parents believe their wards are getting a better education in private sector. In 2016, the Government Middle School Naibugh was established by clubbing Government Upper Primary School Naibugh and Primary School Naibugh which had 12 and 17 students, respectively at the time.

The 2016 government decision to club the two schools was implemented in letter and spirit.

“We had a total of 50 students in the two schools,” Ahmed said. However, the number has gone up from 59 to 96 after the school staff bought the van.

To ensure physical distancing in view of Covidd-19, the school cab does multiple rounds to ferry the students from four neighbouring feeding areas of Sherabad, Nowdal Bala, Sheikh Mohalla and Gulab Bagh.

The teachers not only contributed to the wealth but their time as well.

“We come one hour early and leave one hour late than our usual timing because we have to ensure that the students who come in batches are received by us. In the evening we follow the same schedule,” Ahmed said.

During last year’s Covid-19 induced lockdown, the teachers of the school were conducting classes in the open air for the students near the village stream.

NOTHING NEW

The GMS Naibugh’s rendezvous with such unique feats by its teachers dates back to 2006 when it operated from two rooms. The then staff had bought land for upgrading the school infrastructure by contributing Rs 50000 out of their own pocket.

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