Mufti Mohammad Sayeed confidant and Education Minister Naeem Akhter on Saturday said they are running many schools with lot of teachers but no students at all. This, he said, is being tackled under the new system that he is affecting in coming days.
“I as Education Minister am the top spender in the state and have the huge army of high-paid teachers and I could be the biggest Estates Owner in the state,” Akhter told media at a luncheon meeting. “But my ministry is failure because we have not been able to keep the education of the students as the key focus.” Budget of the education department is more than Rs 6000 crore for both higher and school education operations including new developmental activities and mostly salaries.
With ‘transfer industry’ already passed to the bureaucracy, Akhter said he has started reforms. “During the last few weeks I could move around, I was pained to see the challenges that confront me and my officers,” Akhter said. In a village of 600 souls, he found two middle and two primary schools with a cumulative enrolment of 120. He visited schools with five teachers and three students. In R S Pora, he found three students in a school that had five teachers. “I will make an effort and then you pass the judgment.”
Akhter said the zero-enrolment schools in J&K are a more challenging situation. These include 26 in Jammu, six in Kathua, Ramban and Rajouri, three each in Udhampur and Poonch, seven in Kishtwar, 12 in Budgam, 19 in Shopian, 24 in Pulwamma, 15 in Kulgam and eight in Kupwara. “We have number of such zero-roll schools at 57 in Jammu and 89 in Kashmir,” Akhter said. “I do not have all the details but I can tell you that in Jammu district alone there are 46 teachers posted in these schools where there are no students at all.”
South Kashmir Islamabad, Akhter said, is perhaps the only district that lacks any school with zero students. Then there are school have almost negligible students. In 10 schools, in Kangan belt for instance, he said there is one student in each one of them.
Refusing point blank that he will opt for a legislation forcing wards of the state government employees to attend the state run schools for reforming the system, Akhter said he is taking the other route. “I will be offering an alternative system to them so that they can make a choice between the private sector and the public sector,” Akhter said. “Two schools each in Jammu and Srinagar cities have been identified for special attention, up-gradation and improvement from funds that state government and private sector will give and then the entire cluster around these schools will be scanned to look for deserving children to get the best education in the cities.”
SP School and MP School in Srinagar and Ranbir School in Jammu and another one in Sanjwan have been selected for this special scheme. Rabir School was established in 1870. These four schools will be managed by the old boys of the same school in managerial capacities.
Apart from reviewing curriculum, Akhter said he will be trying to get one laptop each for every headmaster so the kids living in far off villages get to know what it is all about. “I would not mind, even if he uses it just for showing them a film,” he said.
Minister said the attachment policy involving teachers invoking security threats has been done away with. He said the teachers will be sent to hard area for one academic year and packaged in such a way that it does not look like punishment. Besides, a girl teacher being married in other district will now be looked at very sympathetically.
Akhter said given their numbers and no output, the teachers might be engaged in other parallel commercial activity which would be looked into.