200 children forced to go to dilapidated school

May 12, 2012, 06:27 IST | Kranti Vibhute

Not only is Godavari High School functioning despite building being declared 'dangerous', education inspector has also warned nearby schools not to admit its students

Half-a-dozen teachers shouldn’t lose their jobs, even if 200 kids risk losing their lives in the process. Sounds like warped logic? But this is exactly what education inspector of western zone P Pawar seems to have in mind. Last year, Mumbai Fire Brigade declared the dilapidated Godavari High School building in Dahisar ‘dangerous’. Despite this, Pawar sent a letter last December to neighbouring schools asking them to avoid admitting Godavari school students without his permission, as he does not want teachers from the jinxed institution to lose their jobs, and also the school should not shut down as that could adversely affect the children’s academic year. On the other hand, parents have been begging the education inspector to withdraw his letter so that they may admit their wards to other schools and ensure their safety.

Falling apart: Gaping cracks are visible in one of the run-down classrooms. story and pics/Kranti Vibhute

On the unsafe side
Mumbai Fire Brigade issued its notice to Godavari High School on October 4, 2011, stating that the school building was ‘dangerous’ and prompt action was needed to avoid a possible mishap and loss of human life. Later, BMC issued a show cause notice on February 25, 2012 to the management of the school, asking why the structure should not be pulled down. If the reply was unsatisfactory, the school management was liable to be punished.

Dangerous entry: The door of a classroom is broken (circled) and the sharp edges pose a hazard to the students of Godavari High School, Dahisar

Dangerous building
Prior to all this, on June 21, 2011, education inspector P Pawar had written a letter to the school management, in which he said that their building was ‘dangerous’ and they should immediately vacate it and shift to a safer place. This was after the building had been assessed at the behest of a local activist. Pawar had also asked the institution to keep accepting new students and safeguard the academic year of the kids. Later, on December 1, 2011, Pawar wrote to all schools in close proximity of Godavari High School, asking them not to grant admission to students from the establishment, without the consent of the western zone education department.

Nowhere to go:  Parents of Godavari High School students have tried moving their wards to other institutions, but they have been denied admission. 

Who is to blame?
“I issued the notice to all the neighbouring schools because the teachers and principal of Godavari school claimed they may lose their
jobs if the students left and the institution shut down. The teachers maintain that the school is not in dilapidated condition. I will send BMC authorities to inspect the school building and if the structure is in a rundown state, I will ask the management to restore it or shift students to a safer place. The local political authority is prepared to help the school financially, but the management is not ready to accept this. Teachers claim the owners want the school to fold up, so they can sell the plot,” Pawar told MiD DAY.

Dinesh Dave, chairman of Godavari Education Society

Dinesh Dave, chairman of Godavari Education Society, said, “Our school only has a secondary section and there are about 200 students. The fee is very nominal. Despite this, parents don’t pay for years. How can we run the school like this? Hence, we are not able to construct or reconstruct the building, as there are no funds. Looking at the condition of the school, parents want to move their kids to other institutions, but the education inspector’s letter has deprived them of that choice. If tomorrow, a mishap occurs, the blame will fall on the management and no one else. Our principal Anil Dhavle and other teachers are stopping parents from going to other schools because they will lose their jobs if the establishment shuts. We don’t want to batten down, but we cannot run the school without any funds either.”

“Our management wants to shut the school so it can sell the plot and make money. So, we approached the education inspector to save our school and requested him to stop other institutions from admitting our students. Teachers will also lose their jobs if the school shuts. The management is not trying to arrange funds so it can repair the building, because it wants the institution to fold up,” said Anil Dhavle, principal of the school.

Parents speak
>> Neelam Dhende, parent of three Godavari school students, said, “I am struggling since January to shift my children to other schools, but all in vain, thanks to the education inspector, who does not want our kids to be safe.”
>> Surekha More, whose two kids study at the school, said, “No sooner other schools come to know that we are from Godavari school, they ask us to get permission from the education inspector so they can admit our kids. It is my wish that I don’t want my children to be in this school. I want them to be safe and in a school that will provide quality education.”
>> Asha Bhosle, whose three kids also study at Godavari school, said, “I don’t know where to go and who to approach as all the schools are refusing to admit our children. The school building is in poor condition and despite knowing this I have to send my children there every day. Who will be responsible if a mishap happens?” 

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