Minister S Sailajanath’s revelation that hundreds of ‘unviable’ government schools would be closed down flies in the face of the government’s stance that education is its top priority.
Irony of ironies! While the Right to Education (RTE) Act clearly states that free and compulsory education should be given to children aged six to 14 and that there should be a school in every three-km radius, the government is talking about closing down more schools.
Minister for primary education S Sailajanath said that nearly 880 government schools will be closed by the beginning of the next academic year. “There is no point in running schools where students are less in number. Hence, there is a proposal to shut down those schools and most likely, it will take place by June this year,” said the minister.
In view of the implementation of the 25 per cent seat reservation at private schools, the government, which dragged its feet for so many years, will decide on what action has to be taken within a couple of months. “Regarding the extension of the deadline, it is the Centre which has to take the decision. However, because of the court cases by the private schools in regard to this matter, there is a delay. Within one to two months, the State government will decide and there will be more clarity with regards to the action that has to be taken against private schools not complying with RTE guidelines,” said Sailajanath.
Stating that any extension of the deadline will not be a solution to the current problem, the minister said, “The more the time is extended, the further the problem arises. Right now, we have to ensure that the RTE Act is successful and students benefit. Over three years’ time was sufficient for the effective implementation of the Act,” he added.
Many educationalists and representatives of child welfare NGOs feel that the government should concentrate more on the enrolment of students into government schools and less on the 25 per cent seat reservation in private schools.
“There was a blueprint when RTE came into existence, however it was not acted upon. For example, the Central budget of `1.75 lakh crore was granted for the upgradation of the infrastructure of public schools for the four-year period. However, the government sanctioned `33,000 crore. So it is obvious that there will be no proper infrastructure development. Now the government wants to shut down the schools stating that there is no development. Without putting in a collective effort, closing down schools overnight is not right,” said Prof G Haragopal of HCU.
The State-level consultation workshop for the effective implementation of the RTE Act, organised on Tuesday, saw many teachers, MLCs, representatives of NGOs and other government officials discussing the issues and solutions for the effective implication of the RTE Act.
Key factors discussed at the workshop
- Strengthening of government schools by ensuring that there are no students dropping out. Since lack of toilet facilities is forcing 60 per cent of girl students to drop out, better facilities should be provided in all government schools.
- Ration card facility should be given to students below the poverty line.
- Hostel facilities should be provided to students in districts whose parents are daily-wage workers and have to migrate from one place to another.
- The government should also concentrate on pre-primary education and ensure that there is a pre-primary school constructed every three kilometres.
- English-medium education should be made compulsory for Class I to V.
- Inspection should be made compulsory in every school to ensure that the standards are maintained.
- Textbooks and school uniforms should be provided in the beginning of the year itself to the students.