The fresh coat of cream yellow paint on the double-storey building is spotless, walls are devoid of doodles and scribbles, desks and benches are sturdy with glossy varnish, the playground is tidy and the corridors are silent. The kempt look shows there is something terribly wrong with the school.
This high school in Bhitain village, hardly 4km away from the hilly Pauri region of Uttarakhand, has just enough students and teachers to fill a sports utility vehicle.
It has just six students on admission rolls, spread across classes 6, 7 and 8. Class 9 is empty and the lone girl student of class 10 hasn't turned up after admission.
Children are not present because there only three teachers available against the sanctioned strength of seven in the school which got a new building in 2013 complete with library and laboratory.
There is no teacher for Mathematics since 2010, the Science teacher hasn't turned up since 2011 and no English teacher for the past two years. Three teachers of Hindi, arts and general science are the jack of all subjects, taking turns to teach other subjects beyond their competency.
The school was supposed to cater to 300 families of Masaun, Bhitain, Revri, Dhandri, Amkoti and Chamari villages. But children now trek 4km, negotiating steep climbs to attend government and private schools in Pauri.
The situation is grim in Pauri, too. There are 127 high schools, 175 intermediate schools and 1,616 primary schools in Pauri district. Around 18 primary schools in Pauri district are closing down due to zero admission.
And most of the schools and colleges in Pauri district are headless. 111 posts of principals in government inter-colleges and 36 posts of headmasters in high schools are vacant in Pauri. The district is short of 543 lecturers and 516 teachers.
Bhitain is emblematic of the crisis faced by government schools in the hills. The education department is the biggest department in the state in terms of staff strength. But they are not able to find teachers for schools in the hills. Recently, the government had sacked teachers for being absent for more than a year without leave from schools in the hill district.
But why are teachers bunking schools in the hills?
Teachers allege they have to make many sacrifices while serving in the underdeveloped hilly areas of the state compared to the plains that can sustain modern life.
"Many well-paid government teachers prefer to serve in cities or towns not only for the comfortable life but also to educate their children in good private schools," said Umacharan Barthwal, the former member Pauri Zila panchayat.
Many teachers work their political contacts, pay bribes or outsource the job to stay in town.
Kuldeep Gairola, the Chief Education Officer of Pauri, said the department had identified 259 surplus teachers in various schools of Pauri district and they would be transferred to the schools that need them the most. The department was also planning to recruit guest teachers on fixed honorarium to improve the situation, he said.
To improve the dwindling number of students in government schools, the education department has begun a campaign to meet parents and convince them about the facilities in the government schools.
Deepa Devi of Bhitain sends their children to schools in Pauri. She said officials were trying to convince them to send children to the government school in the village. "But what good can the building and infrastructure do for our children if there are no teachers to teach them," said Devi.