'Classes Discontinued at Varanasi's Biggest Blind School, Where Do We Study?'
Varanasi's Poddar Andh Vidhyalaya in Durgakund, run by the Smriti Sewa Trust, has discontinued classes 9 to 12.
Video Editor: Ashutosh Bhardwaj
Video Producer: Aastha Gulati
Stringer Inputs: Chandan Pandey
In 2016, while speaking in his constituency Varanasi, PM Modi had emphasised the use of the word 'divyang' (divine body) instead of 'viklang' (handicapped) to refer to persons with disabilities to empower them. He had also met some students with disabilities.
Barely five years after this speech, we, the students and alumni of Shree Hanuman Prasad Poddar Andh Vidhyalaya in Durgakund, run by the Smriti Sewa Trust, are protesting the discontinuation of classes 9 to 12.
Classes were discontinued in 2020 citing financial constraints. We have appealed against this decision to the prime minister. Since July 2021, having been better placed in terms of the pandemic, we have held protests to demand for our right to education. In 2020, we had moved High Court via a petition questioning the discontinuation of classes as well.
The private trust has controlled the school since its foundation in 1972 with the help of its donors, and more recently from grants from the central government. It is touted to be one of biggest schools for the visually impaired in Uttar Pradesh. North India's second largest library is here as well.
In 2020, during the lockdown, while we were at home, a letter addressed to our parents stated that classes were being discontinued, and that we should consider admission elsewhere. Some were forcibly transferred out of our school following this.
We believe this is only the first phase of the closure and all classes will be discontinued eventually for commercial projects on school land.
The administration has blamed this on a financial crunch that began in 2018 as well as the grant money they did not receive from the central government. We believe this is just an excuse made each year. The school is not doing its paperwork properly, hence not receiving government grants to eventually make way for private players. We have the sword of closure hanging over our heads perpetually. This severely affects our studies and our parents' mental well-being.
"How can a trust, that has organised over 30 Shiv Ratri celebrations and other such programmes, now complain about financial strain?"Anirudh Rai, Alum
Our main demand is for the government to run this school directly. Students from 9 to 12, who have nowhere to resume their education, should be brought back and classes should resume. Truly then, as advertised by the central government, will we be empowered.
Administration's Response to The Quint
The principal of Shree Hanuman Prasad Poddar Andh Vidhyalaya, Krishna Murari Dwivedi, told The Quint that the financial crisis was escalating since 2018, due to which classes had to be discontinued. "It was tough to pay the salaries of 26 teaching and non-teaching staff. All expenses were borne by the trustee and the committee," he added.
At present, 125 students from classes 1 to 8 are studying at the school, he further informed The Quint. Additionally, the administration has also rubbished allegations that school land will be used for commercial purposes.
"What is going around in the media or alleged by the students has no truth. This school is not someone’s personal property. It is a trust with several committee members and one person alone does not take decisions regarding future of the school. Whatever the trust does is for the betterment of the community. Those going into 9th and 11th were transferred to other schools by us."Neeraj Dubey, School Teacher
Amid talk of financial crisis, Dubey added that the school also distributed food during the lockdown last year. This year, oxygen cylinders worth Rs 80 lakh were arranged, he said.
(Chandan Pandey is a local stringer to whom students reached out for a story. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)
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