No ground to play

Many schools are managing with just enough space for morning assembly, and others go about it as a formality in classrooms

No ground to play

Memories of schooldays are invariably attached to the school playground. Be it the weekly period for games, which everyone awaited, or the school drill on Saturdays, which every one grudged about, the time spent in the school playground is fondly remembered.

Yet, for most school students in Bangalore today, this is a tale from a bygone era. In a city of shrinking spaces, many schools are managing with just enough space for the morning school assembly and others go about it as a formality in the classrooms.

Section 19 of the Right to Education Act specifies, “No school shall be established or recognised unless it fulfills the norms and standards specified in the Schedule.”

The Schedule, under its norms, states that every school must have a playground. On the contrary, schools built as part of apartments and shopping complexes is not an uncommon sight in the City. The problem faced by Cordial School and Pine Woods High School in Vijayanagar reflects the status of a majority of schools in Bangalore. Both these schools lack space for playground on the school premises. They are struggling to provide space for their students to play.

Located two lanes apart, these schools share a common 40’ X 60’ empty plot in the locality for the purpose of sports. Their annual sports events are conducted at the New Public Grounds in the locality, which is the common venue for sports activities for almost all the surrounding schools and colleges. In the empty plot that serves as their playground, there is inevitably a clash of timings when both school students turn up at the ground. Teachers of both schools complain that at such times it is difficult to control the students as they end up quarelling with each other for space to play.

Teachers here are also worried about the safety of their students, particularly of the girls who become victims of eve teasing. “It is due to our local MLA’s initiative that we at least have this ground for our use,” says Kantharaj, a teacher of Pine Woods School. He points out that many grounds in the locality are either not maintained well or are converted into parks. A few of those could be dedicated to school students, he opines.

Similar is the case of another private school in Banashankari. This institution conducts the assembly for half the students on the terrace, while the rest say their prayers in classrooms.

Students of Nav Jeevan School say every time they go out to play, they fear being yelled at by neighbours for making noise. This school, too, makes use of an empty plot in the locality for sports purposes. “We play kabbadi and kho-kho. If we had a ground of our own, we could have played many other sports,” laments Raghu of Nav Jeevan School.

He says the students’ main worry is getting reprimanded by neighbours for ‘making noise’. “A school without houses around is my dream school,” adds the class VII student.
While students are demanding space to play, parents feel schools neglect sports, irrespective of whether there is a ground or not. Lakshmi Srinivas, parent of a 13-year-old, chose a school with a playground when she enrolled her daughter.

“An institution with a playground and with fewer students so that the teacher and the students are familiar with each other, was my main consideration while choosing a school for my daughter,” she says. She has not been disappointed with the interpersonal relationship between students and teachers in her daughter’s school. However, despite there being a playground, students are hardly ever allowed to play, says the parent. “We don’t allow children to waste time watching television or playing outside after school. At least in the school, children must get time to play, or else their performance will dip,” she feels.

G S Sharma of Karnataka Unaided Schools Management Association (KUSMA) expressed concern about the lack of ventilation and playground space in schools. Most of the grounds in various localities are taken over by local associations for conducting events of their organisations. Politicians use these spaces for their events. It is children who are suffering amidst this. If there are no separate playgrounds, there should at least be a facility of common playgrounds, he says.

Former Coach of the Indian national athletic team V R Beedu, who presently trains many young sportsmen at the Kanteerava Stadium, holds a similar view. His solution for the space crunch is an organised attempt from the govenment’s end to ensure a place for school students to play. The ground in every locality could be made use of by surrounding schools. The government must delegate the authorities concerned to create a timetable for schools around, and each institution can make use of the ground at a time alloted to them. If monitored well, this could solve the problem, the senior coach says.

Beedu, who has closely observed the Indian sports scenario for decades now, finds a stagnation in the field. “There has been no attempt to break earlier records. The number of students showing interest in sports is also declining,” says the veteran coach.

With schools taking no initiative for inclusion of sports, only a few can afford to enrol for coaching camps outside school. Even those students will sooner or later sacrifice their interest in sports to aim at better scores in exams, he says.

Beedu feels that if school managements make up their minds, providing some space for games is not a difficult task. “For instance, in the top-most floor, a sports auditorium can be built where sports such as volleyball and badminton can be accommodated,” he says, adding that most schools take sports fee during admission, but end up using it for other purposes.

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