A 70-year-old English nursery school building under the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) in Shivajinagar collapsed in the wee hours of Monday, November 27.
Karnataka has seen four chief ministers in the last five years, yet the infrastructure of state schools remains dire. The collapse of an old BBMP school in Shivajinagar highlights the need to take proactive steps to maintain these government buildings and prioritise infrastructure as children’s lives are at risk, stated a report in The New Indian Express.
As per the statistics from the School Literacy and Education departments, Karnataka has close to 47,000 government schools and over 45.5 lakh students studying in them. Between 2019 and 2013, chief ministers have promoted development and education. However, the sector continues to struggle to get approvals from different departments.
When Chief Minister Siddaramaiah presented his budget in July 2023, the government had listed 3,833 old dilapidated and rain-damaged school buildings for renovation, including 724 pre-university college rooms at Rs 100 crore. Despite the promise, work is slow.
During Basavaraj Bommai’s tenure, the government had identified 2,777 rooms that needed repairs as they were either in poor condition or had been damaged by rain. In the 2020-2021 budget, the then CM BS Yediyurappa had promised the reconstruction of 6,469 classrooms in 3,386 government schools in 26 districts, at an expenditure of Rs 758 crore, and in collaboration with NABARD.
During HD Kumaraswamy’s government, 1,500 new classrooms were to be constructed and 5,000 classrooms were to be upgraded. Plans to appoint ‘One Estate Manager’ for the maintenance of school buildings would have been a positive move, but it did not materialise.
Experts opined that the proposed schemes and promises are hardly implemented on the ground. The condition of buildings should be checked every year to ensure the safety of students, they added.
Vasudev Sharma, Director, Child Rights Trust (CRT), said, “There should be a separate section in the education department to oversee buildings, how old they are and how long they can be maintained. Buildings that are in extremely poor condition should be taken down and not wait for tragedies to occur.”
In Bengaluru, around 26,010 students are studying in 166 BBMP schools. Despite many plans to renovate old schools, students are still left with no basic facilities. There are several hurdles with permissions and tenders.
Preeti Gehlot, special commissioner for education, BBMP, said, “The building that collapsed was 70 years old and we had already proposed a new building a few months ago. We didn’t know the condition was so bad.” She said within two days (by Thursday), an audit report will be prepared on the safety condition of city schools. “A meeting with engineers and officials was held on Monday. To avoid any such untoward incidents, stability and safety checks will be done and an inquiry will be set up,” she said.