School or Metro? Future of students hangs in the balance amid official row
Eleven-year-old Kapil was a student at the municipal school in Gopal Nagar, a working class neighbourhood in South West Delhi. In August last year, the municipal corporation decided to rebuild the school and he was shifted to another building, about a kilometre from his house.delhi Updated: Jul 15, 2016 14:15 IST
Eleven-year-old Kapil was a student at the municipal school in Gopal Nagar, a working class neighbourhood in South West Delhi. In August last year, the municipal corporation decided to rebuild the school and he was shifted to another building, about a kilometre from his house.
Kapil said he was excited to attend classes in a new building but missed his old school. His teachers even told him told he could return to it once the construction was complete. But that never happened. Now, the 11-year-old has to walk for over 15 minutes to reach his new school and battle reckless drivers and cross multiple roads on the way.
The tussle between the South Delhi Municipal Corporation that is reconstructing the school and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation ,which has zeroed in on the site as ideal for a station, has left the residents of Gopal Nagar treading a tightrope between education for their children and connectivity and development in their locality.
Most students in these municipal schools come from impoverished backgrounds and the change of school has left them with no cheaper options nearby. So, rather than send them to expensive private schools, parents said their children might drop out from school altogether.
For the last five months, Gopal Nagar residents have been hoping to see light at the end of the tunnel. With every passing day, they hope that their long wait for the old school to reopen will materialize.
However, a solution seems remote, with both parties inflexible and unrelenting.
The school, on the Gopal Nagar main road, ‘is the most appropriate location for an underground station’, according to the DMRC.
The Dhansa bus stand underground metro station is proposed as an extension of the Dwarka-Najafgarh metro station, a 4.29 km-long route with three stations.
As per the metro website, while over 58% work on the Dwarka-Najafgarh project has been completed as of March this year, the project is targeted for completion in December. DMRC sources say work on the proposed extension will begin soon after December this year.
In multiple communication exchanges between the two agencies, the DMRC laid stress on the prime location of the spot and the relief it would bring to the people.
The SDMC, on the other hand, expressed concerns the construction would pose for the education of the poor students in the area.
Municipal officials said on condition of anonymity that moving the school elsewhere would result in greater numbers of dropouts.
They estimate that over 2,500 students will be affected if the school is permanently shifted from Gopal Nagar.
“Due to construction of the school building, the students were transferred to nearby schools. The transfer itself saw a decline in the number of students, and we fear that the number, rather than going up, would fall further if the school is not started soon,” said a municipal official.
The official added that while the disputed school is the only municipal school in the area, the construction of the school building was already more than 50% complete when DMRC sought the land.
“Though the municipal officials are still trying to find a way out, the construction on the school has been halted since February 20 even as it was slated for completion by August this year,” said the municipal official.
Seti, a resident of Gopal Nagar, puts it thus: “We are daily labourers and leave our children in school while we work. We had to pull out our child from school for a year when it was shifted as there was no one to take him to school. We have however enrolled him again, as my wife has quit her daily job and now she drops him to school.”
DMRC officials cited the feasibility report and said that while the construction plan could not be changed, it would compensate the municipal corporation for the inconvenience. The Delhi Metro also assured the construction of an alternative school building in any locality close by as per SDMC requirements, or bearing the cost of construction.
“The existing Dwarka – Najafgarh corridor (Line-9) is proposed to be extended further to Dhansa Stand, approximately 1 km from the present last station Najafgarh. A new station, ‘Dhansa Stand’ will come which will be an underground station. The area is congested and due to lack of space, DMRC had requested MCD to stop construction of this building at this location as new station will be constructed here,” said a DMRC official.
The DMRC will ensure that the building is constructed in the fastest possible time with excellent quality & facilities necessary for the children, the official added.
But for the residents, a school anywhere else will not solve the problem. They worry that their lives will continue to derail and that their children will have to travel far to reach their school. For them, rebuilding the old school is the only option.