Two schools, one playground, no games
Earlier this year, the Delhi HC ordered a group of contemnors to make a football ground fit for play. Then things got a bit complicatedUpdated: Aug 03, 2019, 23:20 IST
Where do you play football in Delhi? Ask most schoolgoing children, and they won’t have an answer. In a densely packed city, projected to be the world’s most populous by 2028, playgrounds are at a premium.
In April this year, Najmi Waziri, a Delhi High Court judge came up with an elegant way to mitigate this sporting gap. She ordered two separate groups of contemnors—parties in contempt of court—to improve the playground at a government school, and make it fit for football. They had to get the ground cleaned, levelled, and seeded with grass, install goal posts and provide 40 footballs.
“Twenty footballs each shall be for the girls and boys, studying in the morning and evening shifts of the aforesaid school,” the order said.
The work was done. The playground was made ready, with goal posts. A bunch of footballs arrived at the institution, the Chandra Shekhar Azad School in New Friends Colony, and they filed the compliance paperwork for Justice Waziri’s order.
Then things got complicated.
Another institution, the Joga Bai Government School, was shifted out from the Batla House locality earlier this year, and was allocated the same premises as Chandra Shekhar Azad. While Joga Bai got new buildings, it was allocated the playground that was once littered with debris, but had now been turned into a grassy football field.
Meanwhile, Chandra Shekhar Azad itself is undergoing infrastructural upgrades—a new set of school buildings are being built. But for now, its students are left without a ground to play in.
“Our kids have nowhere to play now as the entire ground has gone to Joga Bai School. Even the goal posts were installed in our school’s name but our students can’t use the facility” said Vineet Kumar, head of Chandra Shekhar Azad Boys’ School.
Both these Delhi government institutions function as senior secondary schools, separately for girls and boys. While the girls attend school from morning to afternoon, the boys do so from afternoon to evening. Neither school have football programmes—for boys or for girls.
But the fight for playground access has turned a neighbouring school rivalry into something more bitter.
“Just last month, one of our students was admitted to hospital after being attacked by some of their students,” Kumar added.
“We had the entire ground to play in but since Joga Bai got the ground, we just play here,” said seventh standard student Sadiq, pointing to a small space near the tin fences that demarcate the two schools. “We just play in our classrooms,” added Ravinder, another seventh standard student.
Haroon Ali, the head of Joga Bai Boys’ School, acknowledged the ground being a cause for discord but blamed the neighbouring school of being unable to maintain discipline.
“They must be unhappy about losing their ground, which I completely understand. There is no issue during school time because we are very strict about our students stepping in and out of premises. Now there will always be some kids who would want to cause mischief but their authorities must be more vigilant,” he said.
Ali added that the school had installed the goal posts itself after the contemnors left them inside the ground without completing the process. While Chandra Shekhar Azad School received a few footballs, Joga Bai School didn’t, he added.
Can thuis disputed playground be actually used for football?
There are over 1700 students in the boys’ division of Joga Bai school, and over 2000 in the girls’ one. The numbers are similar for Chandra Shekhar Azad School. This makes it close to impossible to accommodate children in the ground strictly for football purposes. Also, a concrete drain cover on one side of the ground, strategically placed right in front of the goal, makes it unsafe for full-fledged football use.
“We only get to play football during our designated ‘games’ period, which is once a week. At other times, there are just too many kids,” said 9th standard student Mustaqim.
Both schools will eventually end up with their own separate grounds. Neither, however, are likely to be enough for students to play in.