An incomplete rectangular hall with no roof, windows and doors stands on the north-eastern section of Eklavya Model Residential School’s campus. Inside, foliage grows wild and a scaffold table lies toppled. This is the school’s girls’ hostel that has been under construction since 2012.
The school at Bana in Arunachal Pradesh’s East Kameng district in India’s Northeast began its first academic session in 2009 after it was set up by the central ministry of tribal affairs intended to be part of 100 such schools across the country aimed at providing free education to tribal children from poor financial background through classes VI to X. However, with just four classrooms and seven teachers, the school at Bana isn’t exactly living up to its intended goal. In fact, media reports last year had highlighted the plight of the school which has seats reserved for students from all districts of the state. Principal RP Dubey says that not much has changed since then.
Last month, Union minister for tribal affairs Jual Oram told chief minister Nabam Tuki to examine the prospects of expanding the presence of the schools in the state. While another school has been set up at Lumla in Tawang district, the very first such school is languishing under poor infrastructure.
Dubey, who took charge as principal last year in June, said that despite having “written to every department” there has been “no improvement” in the school infrastructure.
One of the biggest challenges has been the delay in construction of the two new hostels for the students.
“Only the ground floor of the boys’ new hostel has been completed so far”, Dubey said, while the upper floors still need to be completed. He said that public work department officials say that funds have not been released by the Centre for the work.
The girls’ hostel meanwhile has been marred with delays for three years.
Even with just sixty students in the entire school (30 boys and 30 girls), the present hostels, he said, are “overburdened”. Once the new hostels are built, the school will be able to accommodate more students. Dubey said that in this crunch for space “poor families are losing out”.
For the moment, both boys and girls stay in the old boys’ hostel in separate sections.
Sources said that funds have been misused ever since the school opened six years ago. Reportedly, more than Rs two crore were sanctioned for the construction of multi-storied hostels.
The district’s deputy director of school education Kata Rangmo said that the problems the school is facing are not new.
“It has been drowning in problems since its inception”, he informed.
Rangmo said that the school is losing out on sixty new students every year due to the delays that have accumulated over the years.
The PWD Bana sub-division assistant engineer Kapil Natung informed that around Rs 35 lakh meant for the completion of the ground floor of the girls’ hostel has not been released by the tribal affairs ministry yet despite having written to them on several occasions.
Natung, who took charge last May, also said that funds for the upper floors have not even been sanctioned yet.
There are other issues plaguing the school as well.
The school has just four classrooms and three science laboratories- which have very little equipment.
Payment of staff salaries too has been a major problem.
Last year, the school only began admitting new students as late as September when the staff salaries were paid after chief minister Nabam Tuki intervened to have their pay expedited. This in turn affected the student intake since most schools were already midway through their academic sessions.
As if these problems were not enough, the school’s inability to build proper infrastructure could have an adverse impact on its long term plans.
Dubey informed that the first batch of sixty students which appeared for the tenth standard examinations last year had to do so at the Government Higher Secondary School in Bana. The principal is concerned that if this trend continues, it may affect its prospects to get affiliated with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).
“Affiliation can be sought only if examinations are conducted for three consecutive years in the school”, he said. However, Dubey, who is originally from Uttar Pradesh and has been in the state for over two decades, remains optimistic and informed proudly that “our children did very well in last year’s central examinations”.
A version of this story appeared in The Telegraph. Link: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1151031/jsp/northeast/story_50622.jsp#.VjSLPrcrLIU