Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat
At a time when Government talks about “Digital Literacy ” how is it possible that people especially students don’t have access to electricity? Despite the obvious connection between electricity and educational achievement, however, the troubling scenes in Jammu and Kashmir are repeated as there are thousands of Government run schools without electricity. Present and past Governments in J&K, have been focusing on administrative affairs of education department or even pedagogy, but very little focus has been given to electricity in Government schools. The absence of focus on this issue is detrimental because, a study has put it like this, “education is also widely recognized as one of the most essential components for poverty reduction”. Lack of electricity at primary, middle and secondary schools therefore creates considerable obstacles towards escaping poverty and correlates with many factors that contribute directly towards it. It is a big impediment towards digital literacy as well because when there is no electricity in a Government school, the children will have no access to computers and other digital equipment. The report on link between education and poverty assesses the direct link between electricity and education.
Based on the most recently available survey data from the World Bank and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the report first describes the current state of electrification of schools. According to the this data, roughly four out of every five primary and secondary schools in African countries (Govt and Private schools) surveyed lacked access to electricity, along with almost three quarters of village schools in India. This is much worst in Jammu & Kashmir state as more than 70 percent Government schools are un-electrified in this 21st century. When it comes to Kashmir division, more than 80 percent of Government schools are un electrified and these details I have been provided officially by several Chief Education Officer (CEOs) when I sought details under Right to Information Act (RTI). In Jammu province also the majority of Government schools in Rajouri , Poonch , Doda , Ramban , Reasi , Kishtwar and Doda are still un electrified.
Based on a systematic review of the peer-reviewed and policy literature concerning electricity and education, the report mentioned above assesses the educational benefits of electrification of primary and secondary schools, including lighting and access to information and communications technologies (ICT) as well improvement in staff retention and student completion and graduation rates. The final two main parts of the report, drawn from energy policy, development studies, and innovations in financing and public private partnerships literature, discuss the challenges facing school electrification, such as lack of financing and technical problems with equipment, along with the solutions and incentives with the potential to overcome them, such as Public Private Partnerships (PPPs).
Rajouri , Srinagar
At a time when Government of India is celebrating achievement of 100 percent electrification feat across country, information available reveals some astonishing facts. As per the Government figures, there are 1720 Govt schools in Rajouri district and out of them 1484 (over 86 percent) don’t have access to electricity. Out of 1720 Government schools in Rajouri district , there are 995 primary, 557 middle, 117 high and 41 higher secondary schools. In addition to these there are 6 Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalyas (KGBV) across the district.
In Srinagar district, more than 300 Government schools have not been provided electricity connection by Government till date. More than two years have passed since Government had ordered to get all the schools electrified. In Srinagar there are around 519 Govt run schools out of which there are 204 primary schools, 211 middle schools, 74 high schools and 30 higher secondary schools. Out of the 519 Govt schools, there are around 305 schools which are still un electrified.
In Budgam district there are more than 81 percent Government run schools which are un-electrified. This is an official information that was provided to me by Chief Education Officer (CEO) of Budgam under RTI Act. CEO Budgam informed me in his reply that there are around 1,036 schools in the district out of total 1278 that are “without proper electricity connection”. Actually I had sought the details of all the un electrified Govt schools in Kashmir valley under RTI Act. I filed application before the designated Public Information Officer (PIO) in the Directorate of School Education Kashmir (DSEK). Instead of providing the information , PIO passed the buck to all the Chief Education Officers (CEOs) of Kashmir valley plus Leh and Kargil . That is why I got the details from each district. I also sought information about the number of girls’ schools without a toilet facility and the number of schools without a proper electricity connection, boundary wall and drinking water facility. CEO Budgam in his reply said that “all” the girls’ schools had a washroom facility, “there are dysfunctional toilets “.
In Ganderbal district out of 587 government schools, 434 schools are un electrified which means around 83 percent Government schools have no access to electricity. These details were revealed by Chief Education Officer (CEO) Ganderbal in a reply to my Right to Information (RTI) application.
Why is Government compromising on providing the basic infrastructure to Government schools while as no such compromise is done when it comes to perks and salaries of Government employees especially Govt school teachers ? Infrastructure and level of education is coming down in Govt schools , but this is not the case with Government’s own employees ? Their salaries continue to be hiked. Govt spends more than Rs 1.40 lakhs every month on an average Government school in J&K. Do poor kids enrolled in these schools get the desired facilities ? On contrary to this, not even Rs 50,000 is spent on an average private school in J&K by local school management, but the results are quite different. Board of School Education (BOSE) collected an amount of Rs 16.81 crores from students in shape of exam fees in Kashmir valley recently, but the class Xth & XIIth students were forced to write exams under candle light as there is no facility of gen-sets in the exam centers. Not even heaters are made available in Govt schools (exam centers) by BOSE and children are made to shiver in the cold. I have been forced to seek intervention of J&K State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) where I filed a petition recently.
I hope to get some good direction soon from SHRC. Imagine kind of trauma poor kids are facing in classrooms during June , July and August when temperature rises above 30 degree in valley and more than 40 in Jammu plains or in Rajouri , Ramban or Poonch districts ? After missing the initial deadline of May 2017, the Narendra Modi government on April 29th this year announced “electrification” of all inhabited villages in India has been completed.After having all the data available vis a vis un electrified schools in J&K , it clearly indicates that announcement by Government was largely symbolic. In a state where 75 to 80 percent Government schools are still un electrified how can Government claim to have achieved 100 percent electrification target ? How can Government claim to achieve digital literacy target in future if Govt schools are not electrified?
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat