The gates of the Government Girls/Boys Senior Secondary School in Sonia Vihar open to an under construction building, filth all around, the smell of urine all pervasive, and narrow corridors cramped with children.
Classes are held not only in these musty, dirty corridors, but also in small 20 X 20 feet rooms, where more than 150 students are crammed together to study. Then again, not all children occupying one classroom belong to the same class.
On one side, nearly 80 students of Class 9 are trying to learn English, on the other, 40 students of class 8 are learning science.
Vansh, a class 6 student, who has just moved from a nearby primary school, says: “From the time I joined the school I have been sitting in corridors and studying. The school has given us rugs so we sit here.”
Even in the classrooms, students are either standing or sitting on the floor. In the few rooms that have desks and chairs, there are at least four students sharing one.
“I make them take turns to sit on the desk and chairs. Half of my time gets wasted on it and then teaching in such classrooms is impossible as there is so much noise. I have measured it, there is at least 95 decibels sound here and with such a large number of students, teaching is impossible,” said a teacher who did not wish to be named.
Children do not remember the last time they saw fans working in their classrooms.
The school has only 32 rooms to fit 5,000 girls in the morning and 3,800 boys in the evening.
“We have 54 sections in the school and there are 32 rooms. What can we do? This is the only alternative we had. The construction of the new blocks started in March and is far from completion,” said JR Singh, principal of the evening shift.
This is one of the schools where new rooms are being constructed. However, the new building is taking up playground space from the children.
For want of space, the school started a rule where different classes were held on alternate days. On Thursday, the government sent an order and asked the school to stop the practice.
The other problem is the absence of other schools in the area.
“From Zero Pushta to Chauhan Pathi, a distance of 6 km, there is no government school. All the children come here and as per Right to Education( RTE), we cannot deny them admission,” said Singh.
Apart from inadequate infrastructure, children complain that classes are rarely held. A class 11 student said that since the academic session started, she has yet to meet her subject teachers.
The school committee said the problem was severe. The school has 45 regular teachers and 35 guest teachers.
“The school in the evening shift is supposed to end at 6:30 but by 3-3:30 pm the children are all out on the roads. There is no sense of accountability and in the end it is the students who suffer,” said Subhash Singh, School Management Committee member.
Parents are worried and complain that their children will not achieve anything in life if they continue to study in such squalid conditions.
“I cannot afford to send my child to a private school but I am very worried about his future. In this way the school is running my child has no future,” said Poonam Agarwal, mother of a student.
A few parents have already moved the Delhi High Court against the poor condition of the school and the court sought explanation from the government.
“We are aware of the situation in the school, but this is temporary. Once the new building is ready things will be fine,” said a senior Directorate of Education (DoE) official.