Four years ago, Pune Municipal Corporation’s education board unveiled a school for mentally challenged kids at Shivajinagar, terming it an ambitious project. Since then, the civic body has not been stingy in allocating funds — the previous budget of Rs 20 lakh is likely to be raised to Rs 40 lakh this year.
However, the money has failed to produce satisfactory results. As MiD DAY discovered during an impromptu visit, the number of students has come down, and those remaining are yet to have access to basic amenities like uniforms, desks and transportation.
We found that only one of the four classrooms was functioning, with six to eight pupils attending. However, the school records list 31 students. Contrary to what we saw, the teachers claimed 28 students were present on the day.
During our stopover on Wednesday, we learnt that principal Madhuri Gadekar had been on leave for the last few days. Only two teachers were there, managing all the kids. Though the education board provides free uniforms, shoes to all its schools, no student of this establishment had these items in possession.
“These are special children. That’s why we have asked the education board to provide a distinctly coloured uniform for our students. We are waiting for them,” said Kishor Kambli, one of the teachers.
In one of the classrooms, some officials, including assistant head of the education board SB Adagale, were doing their administrative work.
When questioned about this Adagale replied that as attendance was low, the school staff had seated all the students in one room. It is significant that different kids coming here have diverse needs and have to be treated differently.
Though Adagale is expected to look after provisioning of all facilities to the school, he was unable to answer our questions. Instead he suggested that before making such visits in future, we get a written permission from the education board.
The school has separate rooms for speech therapy and physiotherapy for the children, but like the other facilities here these areas too were closed, as the school doesn’t have specialists to provide these services.
When MiD DAY contacted him, education board head Shivaji Daundkar admitted that the school doesn’t have adequate expert staff and other facilities including transport.
However, he claimed that the board would recruit new teachers soon. When asked how many times the board has advertised for hiring of teachers in the last four years, he said, “Till now we have not advertised for enrollment of teachers.”
Justifying the proposed hike in budget, he said, “Till now we haven’t been providing transportation to students, but we soon intend to start a bus service for the school. That’s why the budget of Rs 40 lakh.”
Sources said the roof of one of the four classrooms in the school had collapsed about a year back. Though the staffers claimed that this had not happened during school hours, the room remains closed. A contractor was carrying out repair work, which he said started on January 7.