Quake-hit schools promised cash

9th February 2001 at 00:00
Fearing the destruction of the entire education infrastructure in earthquake-hit Gujarat, the Indian education ministry has appointed a commission to assess the damage.

It has also sanctioned 1,500 million rupees (pound;22m) to help rebuild schools destroyed or severely damaged by the quake which hit on January 26. More than 50,000 are believed to have died as villages and towns in the state were wiped out.

Before the devastation there were 14,789 primary and junior schools in the state employing 35,000 teachers.

Education ministry officials say they cannot assess the exact damage to schools and property and "only the worst can be feared".

Elementary and secondary schools will receive pound;15m of the funds and the remaining will go to higher education. Though this is a fairly large grant-in-aid by Indian standards, officials feel that even this will not be enough, given the extent of damage.

A spokesman said that it would not be easy to get figures or numbers of chools damaged, since vast areas have been wiped out and getting hold of records and data will be difficult.

According to UNICEF, in the hard-hit districts of Jamnagar, Kutch, Rajkot and Surendranagar, more than 1,700 primary schools - 55 per cent of the total - have been destroyed, leaving 317,000 students without classrooms.

Officials said the most difficult task will be locating teachers and students, many of whom may have died in the quake or have been displaced. A large number of families have left the towns of Bhuj, Anjar and Bachachu, the worst hit areas in the state.

Official statistics place Gujarat as one of the more literate states in the country with male literacy touching 76.7 per cent and female literacy at 53.6 per cent according to the 1998 census.

Rebuilding schools is only one part of the problem, looming even larger is the issue of who will train the new staff as it is feared that many teachers may have died .

Suchitra Behal

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