Classes 9-12 closed, students say move to shut Varanasi school for visually impaired

The students spoke to The Indian Express and said the school administration is “making efforts to slowly shut it down and that they have already closed classes 9-12”.

Students and alumni of a residential school for visually impaired students in Varanasi continued their sit-in outside the school on Thursday against the decision to shut down classes 9-12 and “shrinking the school to shut it out permanently”.

Students of Sri Hanuman Prashad Poddar Andh Vidyalay, which receives half of its funding from the Central Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, say that the school is being shut down as the land where it is located is valuable and the Trust that runs it plans to do business on it.

The students spoke to The Indian Express and said the school administration is “making efforts to slowly shut it down and that they have already closed classes 9-12”.

A letter written by the students said after the death of the founding members of the school, the premises have been misused for different business activities. “Sometimes, the hostel is converted into a store room, while at other times the school’s playground turns into a parking lot for bicycles. When students oppose such activities, they are branded as indisciplined and are told that funds are drying up because of their indiscipline. Whereas, there is a line of donors for the school,” reads the letter, which as per students, has been sent to all senior officers and the PMO.

The letter further alleges that the school administration is not willing to share the documents related to funds being collected by the school. “In June 2019, the school issued a letter shutting down classes 9-12. It is unfortunate that the district administration made no effort to restart the classes…” reads the letter.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Abhay Kumar Sharma, a former student who is leading the sit-in, said, “They want to usurp the land and use it for business. The trustees are local businessmen who want the school to shut down because the land is expensive. Also, they know that if classes 9-12 could be shut, the whole residential school could be closed because younger children will find it hard to articulate their issues with the school administration.”

The students said as the school is the only one for visually impaired students in the entire Purvanchal region, several students from disadvantaged backgrounds will lose their only hope of education and a dignified life.

A student, who has been forced to drop out with the shutting down of classes 9-12, said, “I am struggling to find another school for myself. My father is a farmer and can’t afford to send me to another school. This is what is happening to most of my friends as well.”
The students wished to remain anonymous.

The school’s manager Neeraj Dubey said only classes 9-12 have been being shut down and there is no plan to suspend classes 1-8.

“The school used to run till class 12. However, due to Covid-19 and also because the financial assistance from the central government hasn’t been coming since 2018, we are struggling. Donations have also dried up because of the pandemic and the students’ indiscipline. The school will continue for classes 1-8. The students had moved the high court seeking directions for it to be run till class 12. Now, some former students are sitting in protest. It is not true that we are trying to shut down the school entirely,” Dubey said.

He added, “Six admissions were done this year for classes 1-8. It was decided in 2018 to shut down classes 9-12 and from the 2019 session, they were closed. There is no question of shutting down primary classes.”

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