In this Navi Mumbai school, there is no bell to mark the start of the day, for none has been installed. According to teachers, there are about 100 items, including benches, greenboards, buckets and cupboards, that the school needs urgently. “We hope at least half of these are provided soon,” said teacher Ashok Mhatre. He added that the list of requirements has been sent to the City Industrial and Development Corporation (CIDCO), which had built the school for children from families displaced on account of the Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA).
The CIDCO, which is developing the NMIA, has built two schools to accommodate students from project-affected families. But a week after classes started for close to 500 students at the new school in Vadghar village, the basic infrastructure remains missing. The school sees students from Chinchpada, Kopar, Varchaole and Vaghiwaliwada villages, where 80 per cent of the affected villagers have relocated to the new plots offered by the CIDCO. Teachers from the Zilla Parishad schools in these villages have shifted to the new institution.
According to an agreement between CIDCO and the Zilla Parishad, the former is required to provide bus services, a security guard and cleaning staff for the new school. Parents of the students complained that only six bus services are available and the vehicles are overloaded.
“Not everyone gets to sit inside the bus. The 20-plus seater buses see 30-35 students at a time. As they are children, we get worried,” said Kalyankar Kamlakar, the parent of a two-year-old boy.
The ground-plus-two storey school building houses two anganwadis and Classes I to VIII. Each of the four villages has reserved space to conduct separate classes for students from the respective areas.
“We wanted to retain separate classes and teachers for each village. So, the ground floor has separate pre-schools for the three villages. The first floor is reserved for classes for Chinchpada village students and the second floor has classes for Kopar, Varchaole and Vaghiwaliwada villages. Each village gets an exclusive teacher and classrooms for students from I to VIII,” said Prem Patil, an activist who represents the Project Affected People (PAP) from Kopar village.
Teachers said conducting classes without a black board is difficult.
Tanvi Balore, a Class V student, has to sit on the floor in the class. “It becomes difficult to write in the book without a bench. My thighs and hands start paining. But my friends and me are trying to adjust,” she said. Although she conceded that the new school building was brighter and more airy than her previous Zilla Parishad school.
There is also no cleaning staff in the school yet and garbage has piled up at the end of every floor. The teachers said they were promised a “digital school” but none of those amenities is available. A CCTV camera system is still to be installed.
“There are no computer rooms or laboratories. What is worse is that we expect parents from the nearby buildings and colonies to start sending their children to these schools. If that happens, how are we supposed to provide decent education without the basic facilities?” asked Ramesh Mate, the principal of the Chinchpada village school.
Without a playground, 12-year-old Raj Gharat, a Class VIII student, says: “From langadi to kho-kho, we play in the classroom itself.” In his class, all students, except two, sit on benches borrowed from their previous school. Senior CIDCO officials claim it is not their responsibility to provide benches or additional amenities. “We have constructed the building, given wide classrooms and provided each of the required amenities. We have promised bus services and cleaners as well. Getting benches, blackboards and other details are concerns that the Zilla Parishad must look into,” a senior CIDCO official said.
Lokesh Chandra, the vice-chairperson and managing director of CIDCO, said: “We have provided some of the best infrastructure in the school. While other required items, including benches and blackboards, are things that the Zilla Parishad as an institution could look into, we will also will look into the demands. As far as digital school is concerned, the district authorities can look into adding the facilities they want.”