The students of Malkatar village in MP’s Barwani district have a new school building, but only on paper. The structure has been rented out to a dam contractor, who uses it to store his equipment.
The present middle school building is in a dilapidated condition, and many of its rooms are flooded with rainwater. Teachers have been forced to hold classes in a tiny 60-square-feet room for the last three years, local residents said, adding that the contractor is using all his influence to stay put.
School education department officials said the new middle school building was constructed in accordance with the prescribed design on the higher reaches of the village three years ago, but a former sarpanch rented it out to the contractor.
Malkatar, situated on the Madhya Pradesh-Maharashtra border, has a population of about 700 people.
Children don’t attend classes for fear that the old school building might collapse
Though the children here want to continue studying, they do not attend classes for fear that the old school building might collapse at any moment. “This building is unsafe and stuffy,” said Shalu, a Class 6 student.
Ravindra Wagh, headmaster of government middle school, said the students’ apprehensions were well-founded. “Besides, we can’t even find the space to install a blackboard – a basic requirement for schools – in such a small space. It just doesn’t have the atmosphere for learning. Three teachers have to stuff themselves in this tiny space along with 16 students. That’s hardly enough,” he said.
The infrastructure requirement is not extensive, considering that the school’s total student strength from classes 1 to 8 is a mere 16. “I approached the authorities on many occasions, but they just told me to be patient,” Wagh said.
‘Contractor is not ready to vacate the school’
Santosh Pawar, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan block resource coordinator of Pansemal, said the former village sarpanch cited the distance of the new middle school building from the village to rent it out to the contractor three years ago. “As soon as we came to know about it, two notices were issued to the contractor. But he is not ready to vacate the school,” Pawar said, adding that the village panchayat does not have the authority to rent out a school building to private parties.
However, former sarpanch Vinod Parmar said he took the step because the new building was located 500 metres away from the village, and on a steep incline – making access difficult for students.
“We believed that doing so would not only raise funds for the village panchayat but also ensure that the structure is put to some use. But now that the contractor is using it to keep his equipment and house his workers, he is unwilling to vacate it. He has been threatening people too,” Parmar said.
Pansemal sub-divisional magistrate Abhay Singh Kharari said he will take steps to get the building vacated, and ensure that it is run properly.