On a cold January morning, sitting on the floor on mats in a classroom at a North Delhi municipal corporation (NDMC) school in Jahangirpuri, around 20 students of class 2 repeat the math tables of eight in unison. But the strength of this classroom has not been full even once over the past two months. The reason? Lack of benches in the school.“It’s very difficult to sit on the mats in winter. I fell ill last week. Now, my mother has got me warmers to wear beneath my trousers. It has become better now,” said an eight-year-old, who was attending the school after five days on Wednesday after recovering from a fever. The mat she is sitting on is still damp from the previous day’s rain.School officials said they have only 200 benches for around 1,100 students. The school operates in two shifts — girls in the morning and boys in the evening.“Only one bench is available for every five to six students. They are in use constantly, because the school operates in two shifts. The last batch of new benches came in 2013, and they have not been replaced ever since,” the principal of the school said.And it’s not just one school. Thousands of students studying in the 765 schools under the jurisdiction of the north civic body are forced to sit on the mats because of the lack of benches in their classrooms.The matter came to light in November last year when the Congress councillor from Jahangirpuri, Poonam Baghdi, raised it during a house meeting, saying that more than 38,000 students in north civic body schools did not have benches to sit on. The authorities had then promised to take prompt action.However, when HT visited some of these schools, students were still seen sitting on the floor on the mats.“Nothing has been done so far. I am going to sit on the floor during the next house meeting to raise this matter again. The authorities do not have money to get furniture for our children, but they claim to aim to set up world-class schools,” Baghdi said.Two kilometers away, in a neighbouring block in Jahangirpuri, a group of students of class 1 are seen sitting on the floor at another north civic body school. Officials said they receive complaints from parents every day, about their children sitting on the floor.“We have now started to rotate classrooms with furniture, among students from classes 2 to 5. At least everyone will get a chance to sit on the benches once or twice a week,” the principal of the school said.He said that even the furniture available is not in a “good shape”. “Most of the benches are broken and half of them do not have backrests,” the prinicipal said.In another school in Mukundpur, a group of students said that in summers they can lean against the wall. “But, in winters, the walls are too cold. My mother gives me a towel to place on the mat. It makes it a little tolerable,” said a class 5 student of the school, who lives in a neighbouring slum.The schools run by the city’s three municipal corporations — east, north and south — run schools for children up until class 5.A senior official, who refused to be named, said authorities are soon going to procure 10,000 new benches. Officials said the matter has been pending since 2013 because of quality standards set by the civic body.“The authority purchases the furniture through an e-portal — Government e-Marketplace. But the quality of furniture offered on the portal did not match the quality standards set by the north corporation committee, in January last year. It took months to get furniture as per our set standards available on the portal. Now, we have sent a proposal to get 10,000 new benches to the financial department, and we are waiting for a clearance for the same,” the official said.Adesh Gupta, mayor of the north corporation, said the tender of 10,000 benches has been sent for “financial concurrence” to the civic body’s finance committee.“We are expecting a clearance sometime soon. The tender will be awarded immediately to the selected company. We are expecting to get the new furniture in February,” he said.Meanwhile, back in the school in Jahangirpuri, around 12:20 pm, the mother of the 8-year-old reached the school to meet the principal with a request to provide her daughter a bench. “She falls sick very often. I have come to request the principal to make some arrangement for her. He has assured to extend some help,” she said.