Hit by internal feud & Covid, school for destitutes in Jalandhar struggles for survival : The Tribune India

Hit by internal feud & Covid, school for destitutes in Jalandhar struggles for survival

Loses a majority of pupils; dist admn says will ensure students have a future

Hit by internal feud & Covid, school for destitutes in Jalandhar struggles for survival

A view of Sant Kabir Public School and Mandir at Sham Nagar



Tribune News Service

Aparna Banerji

Jalandhar, May 12

Started in 2001 in an endeavour to impart education to children living in local slums, Sant Kabir School and Mandir is currently undergoing through testing times in its nearly 20-year-long run.

A ganda nullah flowing just in front of it. photos: Malkiat Singh

Dipping strength

  • Nearly 300 students used to study here during the pre-Covid times, but now only 100 are left. At presently, there are only 15 to 20 students in nursery classes, five in Class VII and merely three in the VIIIth standard
  • The plight of the school came to light after a former society member returned over Rs 15 lakh collected in funds for the school to the district administration on Wednesday.

Officialspeak

I will have the DEO secondary check out the school and the administration would ensure requisite arrangements are made so that at least students have secure future and are able to pursue smooth education further — Ghanshyam Thori, DC

‘I was sidelined’

Then president Mela Ram was a fine man. But was later manouvered by some. We built the school from the scratch, but the committee began taking decisions without my consent. So I considered it best to walk out. I don’t want the funds to be misusedRs Brijesh Chopra, one of the school founders

‘Not aware of any dispute’

We don’t know the reason why Chopra ji walked out. He was like a father figure to me. Only my father could have told what happened. I’m not aware of the former disputes. We went to him to convince him, but he didn’t agree to return. — Shiv Kant Bhagat, President of school society

Situated right next to the polluted nullah in Sham Nagar, the school is going through its worst financial crisis that it can’t even pay students’ board exam fee.

A pre-Covid dispute and the exodus of labourers from the area in large numbers during the pandemic emptied the once bustling school.

Of the nearly 300 students who used studied here during the pre-Covid times, but now only 100 are left. Presently, there are only 15 to 20 students in the nursery classes, five in Class VII and merely three students in the VIIIth standard. The plight of the school came to light after a former society member returned over Rs 15 lakh collected in funds for the school to the district administration on Wednesday.

Earlier sewing classes were held under the name of Lala Jagat Narain in the school. Within years, pushed by local do-gooder Mela Ram Bhagat, classes began. The joining in of ex-councillor and former Improvement Trust member Brijesh Chopra, who is an advocate by profession, got in much-needed funds for uniforms stationary, books, etc.

Funds were mobilised for a building, water, electricity and various other amenities. However, trouble came when disputes developed within the committee. As a result, funding was massively hit. Staying away for years, Chopra, on Wednesday returned funds worth over Rs 15 lakh which had been collected for the school by him (and kept in a bank account), to the district administration, saying he didn’t want them to be ‘misused’.

Present president Shiv Kant Bhagat, son of now deceased Mela Ram Bhagat, said the welfare society tried to persuade him to join back but he didn’t relent despite their best efforts.

Sunita Rani, vice principal of the school for 14 years, said, “The school had 250 to 300 students, but many left during Covid. The school received an affiliation from the PSEB in 2012. The school was earlier till X standard, now its till VIII standard. After Covid things are bad. This year we couldn’t pay the board exam fee of the students of classes V and VIII. So we aligned with the local Holy Land School to ensure the total Rs 15,000 we owed as exam fees could be paid to the board. Fee has been affected and funds are less. We would like to expand the school. We hope the administration helps.”

Sunita Rani says she doesn’t know the reason of the dispute between Chopra and the present society.

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