When PM Narendra Modi launched the ambitious Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in October 2014, he probably didn’t expect it to further the cause of education.
A toilet built under the scheme at Mama Basti Badi Bandh in Madhya Pradesh’s Neemuch district has been converted into makeshift classrooms for a local government primary school.
It was admittedly a smart move, given that the educational institution — with a student strength of 50 — does not have a building to call its own.
Hemraj Bheel, one of the four contractual teachers appointed to run the school, said, “It was very hard holding classes in the absence of proper infrastructure. Because our school had no concrete rooms, we were forced to conduct classes under the open sky.”
That was when somebody decided to put the toilet, constructed at a cost of Rs 2.77 lakh, to “better use”. Residents of the tribal-dominated village blame lack of “administrative will” and “excessive interference” from politicians for the sorry state of the school.
“In 2009-10, the government sanctioned a satellite school building for the village under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. However, in order to please voters from another village, the then sarpanch connived with the construction agency to get the building constructed there. The villagers of Mama Basti raised a hue and cry, but nobody listened to them,” said Heeralal Gurjar, former headmaster of the school.
But all was not lost. As a school building existed in Mama Basti at least on paper, the government sanctioned funds for the construction of a toilet there in 2015. “That’s where we hold classes now. We also keep our school inventories there,” said Bheel.
Like Gurjar, sarpanch Ladhabai Meghvanshi blamed her predecessor for the village’s educational quandary. “A school was sanctioned for the village, but the former sarpanch got it constructed elsewhere. We have now asked the local MLA for a school building at Mama Basti,” Meghvanshi said.
District education officer KC Sharma said though his department had sent a proposal for the school building two years ago, no funds were sanctioned.
District collector Rajnish Shrivastava said he was unaware of the problems faced by the school. “If what you say is true, I will ask the district education officer (DEO) to take action in the matter. The school can even be shifted to a rented building,” he added.