Twelve-year-old Poshan Bibi, a student of Class 5 at the Government Primary School at Patta Kote, 7 km from here, has never been to a toilet. “We don’t have toilets at home either. We go to fields to answer the call of nature. But nowadays I feel embarrassed going out in the open,” she says.
Poshan is among the 25 students, most of who come from Gujjar families that trade in milk, which has a huge demand in Katra town, making them financially sound. She could start studying only in 2010 when the school opened at Patta Kote. Her house has a fridge and a TV, but no toilet.
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Students of the Government Primary School at Patta Kote near Katra line up outside their one-room school and head to the fields for a toilet break. The school functions without a fan atop a house. Nitin Kanotra/HT
Her friend Nasim Bibi, 12, however, reflects the aspirations of the students who are exposed to TV and the quality of life they watch on it. “We feel it’s time our houses had clean toilets too, particularly for girls, as we are now growing up. I want the quality of life they show on TV.”
Toilet? This school doesn’t have a fan
The children’s requirement for a basic facility like a toilet seems a tall order if one considers the infrastructure they are putting up with. The primary school, comprising 25 students from nursery to Class 5, is being run in one 10ft x10ft room, without a fan, atop a local trader’s house.
Their two teachers barely manage to run the show with their own initiative. A toilet is not a priority here, leave alone a separate one for girls.
The school at Patta Kote is just 7 km from Katra town, the base camp of the Vaishno Devi shrine that sees about a crore visitors annually. But the village is not connected by road and it took the Hindustan Times team a 30-minute trek to reach the school.
Though Katra town is a financial hub and people around it have grown economically, the house atop which the school is run has good furniture but there was no need felt for toilets to be built.
Shrine board to help build toilets
Reasi is one of the backward districts of Jammu and Kashmir. It was carved out of Udhampur district in 2007. It has 1,096 schools, of which 615 are girls schools without toilets and 199 are schools with dysfunctional toilets for girls. But things are changing, slowly. Toilets are being constructed. The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, which manages the Vaishno Devi yatra, is providing finan-cial assistance to social projects, including improving school infrastructure in the district, especially around Katra. Some schools in the vicinity have been identified by the shrine board.
A proposal is also under consideration to construct an independent building to house the school at Patta Kote and is likely to be cleared soon.
Facts and figures
Total schools: 23,234
Schools without toilets for girls: 6,294
Worst district - Reasi
Total schools: 1,096
Schools without toilets for girls: 615
Best district – Bandipora
Total schools: 766
Schools without toilets for girls: 0
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