MAHBUBABAD : In the fourth such incident in one month, 12 students of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya in Eknoor mandal in Khammam district were taken ill allegedly after having dinner on Wednesday. Earlier, three similar incidents had taken place at these government-run schools for children of BCs. At Koutala in Komarambheem district, some students fell ill after eating stale dal in breakfast. At least 50 fell ill after eating worm-filled rice for almost a week in Nellikuduru mandal in Mahbubabad district. In Thorrur mandal, about 20 girls fell sick after drinking borewell water.
An Express team visited the two Vidyalayas in Mahbubabad district to know the causes. The food poisoning in Nellikuduru was blamed on the cook’s negligence. As for the Thorrur incident, children had to drink borewell water as the RO plant did not work.
The KGBV scheme was launched by the Centre in 2004 to ensure that girls, specifically belonging to SCs, STs and OBCs, have access to quality education. The upper primary residential school reserves 75 pc seats for these communities and the rest for BPL children. KGBV was merged with Sarva Shikshya Abhiyan on April 1, 2007 and has been being managed by state governments in some areas and by NGOs in some others. Telangana is one of the states where children are admitted to Classes higher than Class 8. There are plans to include Intermediate education in KGBVs.
According to a Niti Aayog analysis done in 18 states in 2015, children would not have opted for KGBVs had there been no residential facility. Most principals and teachers said free hostel was the main motivation for the girls to join the schools. District collector is in charge of the overall implementation of KGBV scheme and a specially-appointed sectoral officer oversees its implementation at ground level. The school principal also acts as special officer.
Rattled by three incidents which occurred in a span of 15 days, officials took some action. The two teachers who were on duty on the day of the incident at Koutala were transferred to KGBV in Sirpur mandal while two from Sirpur were moved to Koutala. At Nellikuduru, the principal and the cook were suspended and currently, two women who take care of midday meals in the local government school have been given the additional responsibility at KGBV. Mineral water will be bought for Thorrur KGBV till the RO plant is revived. A paediatrician in Mahbubabad said the number of cases rises during monsoon.
SSA director G Kishan said, “These incidents occur only during monsoon. We asked all the in-charge offices to avoid leafy vegetables and keep RO plants working. Cooking has to be completed only half an hour before food is served.”
Sectoral officers were told to carefully procure materials. “We generally procure essentials from civil supplies and other certified departments — eggs from NACO and milk from the Dairy Development Corporation. These incidents occur when workers are lax,” he explained. Fourteen persons cary out various duties at the school — a watchman on 24-hour duty, two cooks and three helpers in the kitchen and seven teachers including the principal. Besides, an ANM attends to the children at all times. They are appointed on contract basis and are underpaid. “We double up as in-charge at night and caretakers when there is need. It is overburdening and there is no guarantee of job,” said a teacher at Nellikuduru.
Nearly 84 new English-medium KGBVs will be set up in addition to the existing 398 in Telangana.
Besides the questionable quality of food, Express has found several other aspects that need authorities’ attention. All KGBVs have a single building plan. The ground floor of the spacious one-storeyed building with a central courtyard, has classrooms and the first floor is the residential area. At least 40 girls are crammed in a single, medium-sized room. They sleep on the floor alongside their belongings which include a huge trunk, books, school bags and clothes.
“The monsoon and winter are fine but summers are uncomfortable,” said the girls at the Thorrur KGBV. Washrooms at Nellikuduru KGBV are in horrible condition. Dysfunctional taps and broken doors are the common sight. The other washrooms are hardly sufficient for 200 girls. “Those having monthly period have to wake up as early as 5 am to finish their morning ablutions. Fights and arguments erupt quite often,” said a student.