The Delhi government’s directorate of education will invest Rs 300 crore on construction and retrofitting of 309 Delhi government schools to make them structurally safe and aesthetically appealing. The department is calling it ‘Project Roopantar’.
“The idea is to ensure that every child gets to study in a positive environment. Since we have already succeeded in improving results, the next step is to provide a joyful environment for learning,” said Rina Ray, education secretary.
Ray admitted that lack of toilets was a very common reason for dropout, especially for girls. “So, we thought of doing away with shabby classrooms, dirty toilets or the lack of them, shortage of drinking water and unsafe school buildings,” Ray said.
The department plans to inaugurate at least two refurbished schools by August 15.
“Some of the school buildings will be newly built, while the existing ones will be retrofitted to make them structurally sound. They will have fire safety arrangements and separate rooms for the principal and the teachers,” Ray said.
According to advocate Ashok Agarwal of Social Jurist, which is a group of lawyers working for a child’s right to education, the school buildings constructed by the Public Works Department (PWD) are of poor quality. The normal life of these buildings is around 30 years. But in certain schools, the quality of construction is so poor that they become unsafe after a few years.
Although Delhi High Court has sought explanation from the authorities concerned from time to time, nothing concrete has been achieved so far. The project is also experimenting with the public-private partnership in education.
Ray said, “We realised that as long as the PWD was in charge of buildings, there would be no accountability and innovation. So, we got the cabinet to hand over the construction job and management of buildings to the Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructural Development Corporation.”