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‘Would Change Schools if I Had Choice’: Delhi Govt Uses Portacabins For Classes

The building, which comprises 11 schools, is undergoing construction work for the last four years.

Published
Education
6 min read
‘Would Change Schools if I Had Choice’: Delhi Govt Uses Portacabins For Classes
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School aane ka mann nahi karta hai, iss classroom mein bahut dikkat hai," said a 17-year-old girl, as she looked at the blue portacabin that has been her classroom in south east Delhi's Molarband for four years now.

A class 9 student of Delhi government's Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya, she is one of the thousands who studies inside these tin-sheet temporary classrooms, in the absence of a proper school building.

She did not want to be identified out of fear of action against her by the school authorities.

On 12 September, The Times of India reported that several students of atleast 11 Delhi government schools in Molarband are functioning out of portacabins. These resemble the night shelters scattered around Delhi.

On 14 September, The Quint visited the portacabins and spoke to the distressed students and their parents about the lack of proper infrastructure, and a school building in the premises that has been under construction for over four years now.

The portacabins function as classrooms. 

(Photo: Sanidhya Somani/The Quint) 

No Desks and Chairs in Some Classrooms

When The Quint visited the school in southeast Delhi, it found that only portions of the new building were constructed, and some students were accommodated inside those proper classrooms, like the 17-year-old girl's cousin. "My cousin was admitted to the school recently and gets to study in the new classroom, while I have to study here," she lamented.

The student added, We have to sit on the floor, which is usually dirty, especially when it rains. Even the mats are torn. It's quite unhygienic."

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There are around 20 portacabins being used by the school that The Quint visited, and each portacabin fits up to 60 students. Outside the portacabin is a paper glued to it that displays the class, section, and the class teacher’s name.

In some portacabins, there are no desks and chairs, and students have to make do with mats on the floor. The classrooms are cramped, their shoes besides them, and barely two fans on the ceiling. Blackboards hang from the portacabins’ tin walls.

A student studying English in a cramped-up classroom in a portacabin. 

(Photo: Ashna Butani/The Quint) 

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‘Can’t Study Due to Heat, Water-logging,’ say Students  

While she waited for her teacher to come to class, a class 12 student, seated on the mat inside her classroom, told The Quint, “I have been here since offline classes resumed this year after a gap of two years. It's very hot inside the classrooms and there is barely any wind. Other classrooms still have tables and chairs but we do not even have that.”

Since the portacabins are cramped, students complain that they are "easily distracted because the classes are so crowded. The blackboards are also torn."

Students, as well as the teachers that The Quint spoke to, said that the "usable" toilets are in the new school building which is at least six minutes away from the portacabins. A student said, "The toilets here are dirty and the ones in the new building are far away. So, we avoid going altogether." There's usually not enough time between classes to use the toilet and just to and fro will take over 10 minutes, students said.

Class 9 students in their English class. 

(Photo: Ashna Butani/The Quint)

Another student of class 11 said, "The mats are uncomfortable and the fans barely work. Noon is the worst time." In the summer, the children complained that the classroom turns into a tinderbox.

The portacabins mostly accommodate senior school students, and the condition is similar across the 11 government schools in the area – six girls' schools and five boys' schools. Multiple buildings are being constructed in the same area and the construction is yet to be completed.

Students complained that there are frequent power cuts in the portacabins. 

(Photo: Ashna Butani/The Quint) 

The girls' classes take place in the morning slot and the boys' classes start in the afternoon.

Molarband is an industrial area, and most children who study here are from the neighbouring areas such as Jaitpur and Tajpur.

A teacher who teaches girls from classes 6-10 in the first slot, told The Quint, "Teachers somehow manage but it is very difficult for the students. They mostly complain about the heat. There is still a significant portion of construction left in the new building, so we do not know when they will all be shifted to the main school building. We do hope it's soon.” 

A student outside her classroom. 

(Photo: Sanidhya Somani/The Quint) 

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The students say that there is no respite in the other seasons as well. In the monsoon, things turn worse. Harsh Shukla, a student of class 11, who goes to school in the second half of the day, said, "Even if it rains for a few minutes, the classroom gets flooded." Students have to wade through dirty water, roll up their trousers till their knees. Many fear getting infected or falling sick.

Assembly time for students in the morning, especially in the summer, is barely manageable but it's worse for students of the afternoon batch. Shukla said, "Those who attend school in the second half have to stand under the scorching heat for the assembly because there is no shade."

"In the monsoons, it becomes difficult for us to even reach the portacabins, as sometimes even the steps of the portacabins are submerged under water. And we do not have proper facilities for drinking water in the school. If I had the choice, I would have changed schools but there are no options nearby for government schools."
Harsh Shukla, a Class XI student

‘They Should Be Given Basic Amenities,’ Say Parents

Naturally, parents too are not pleased with the infrastructure and the conditions under which their wards study. Anil Kumar, who comes to pick up his daughters on a bike every afternoon, told The Quint, “We have been waiting for a long time for work on the actual school building to finish. As parents, we invest so much in our children's education so we do hope that they get all the amenities at least."  

Another parent, on the condition of anonymity, said, “While we are glad that offline classes have resumed, the roads leading to the portacabins are in a bad shape and get flooded easily during the rains, as we witnessed recently."

The area outside the portacabins get flooded during monsoon. 

(Photo: Ashna Butani/The Quint)

A class 9 student's father, again on the condition of anonymity, said, “A few days ago, my daughter complained about how there was no water in the washroom and because of the unhygienic conditions, she does not feel like coming to the school."

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Admin Says Students Will Be Shifted Soon 

The Estate Manager, who is hired by the Delhi government to look after the overall maintenance of the school, told The Quint, “The first two buildings are ready and are in use. The third building is yet to be handed over to us. Many of the students have already been shifted to the main building and the others will be shifted once the work is completed.”  

However, he did not give a timeline for the completion.  

School authorities said that the students will be shifted to the main building soon. 

(Photo: Sanidhya Somani/The Quint) 

TOI had reported that the configuration of the new buildings posed issues as they share boundaries with each other. A parent had told the newspaper, "This is fraught with risks of junior students being bullied by the old ones. They built these buildings but forgot about the basic requirements."

A father of a Class 9 girl told The Quint, "Since there are so many students coming in and out at the same time, anyone can enter the school and it is not safe. That's why I come to pick her up every day."

Students inside their classroom in the portacabin. 

(Photo: Ashna Butani/The Quint) 

*names changed

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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