The Lang’ata Road Primary land dispute with a private developer is an eye opener. It unfortunate that a crisis has to occur to wake up our senses of pro-activeness. We must agree that private developers are not going anywhere and that they are a vital element to the needs of our growing economy, they provide housing and other crucial amenities like Hotels, Hospitals, office blocks etcetera. However whenever private interests are in conflict with public interests there is no question that the public must take preeminence. But why should we what until an dispute occurs? This is how we must protect School land.
1. Make it extremely difficult to transfer or change us of school property
When disposing public property is a easy as ABC it becomes a temptation to those who are always scavenging for easy land. In the United Kingdom a school or associated party wishing to dispose of playing field land for which they hold the freehold are required to seek the consent of the Secretary of State before making any disposal.
The Secretary of State has a general presumption against the need to change the current pattern of school playing field provision by disposal or change of use. Authorities and schools should not view the sale of playing fields as a mainstream or routine method to fund improvements to facilities.
The Secretary of State expects authorities and schools to first investigate and exhaust all other means of funding before considering the sale of school playing fields. Decisions to dispose of playing fields are hard. In each and every case we have one question in mind what is best for pupils’ education and their wider school life?
The Secretary of State will take a decision on the application having regard to all relevant matters including all information provided by the applicant, objectors, the advisory panel and department officials. As a precondition of applying for his consent, the Secretary of State expects applicants to demonstrate that they have explored all reasonable options prior to making an application to dispose of playing fields, particularly at schools that remain open. In the case of applications from governing bodies, trustees and foundation bodies, the applicant will need to provide evidence that its local authority has no objection to the disposal of the playing field land.
2. Create a Comprehensive database of all the public schools
We must be aware of where all the public properties are. We must know their size, type of use, current status of occupancy and all other relevant information. We know have the technology to make this happen at a fraction of the budget. We already have an Indian Case Study we don’t have to re-invent the wheel, an NGO is using GIS to map all public school in order to protect them from grappers.
The Hyderabad Urban Lab, a non-profit research programme focused on using mapping technologies and data to solve urban challenges, has created a map of all 5500 government high schools in Hyderabad and Rangareddy districts.
According to the founder of the lab, Anant Maringanti, it is important to put this data on a map to prevent these land areas from being sold.
Maringanti added that many schools have been forced to shut down as land allotted to government schools is monetised. The lab aims to create awareness and build social literacy through this mapping exercise.
“It is important to put these on a map and build a database around them because government schools often have public property associated with them and in a city where even the government is constantly trying to monetise land the entire school faces a threat,” stated a post on the lab’s Facebook page.
Currently, 3000 schools in Hyderabad (city of 6.8 million residents) and 2500 schools in Ranga Reddy (district with 3.6 million residents) have been plotted on the map, based on crowdsourced information.
These schools include primary, higher secondary, Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation schools, railway schools (chain run by the Ministry of Railways) and schools run by district level local authorities in state of Andhra Pradesh.