TO PONDER ON A WAR-FOOTING
“THE GOAL OF EDUCATION IS TO INCREASE AWARENESS NOT INFORMATION. WATCHING OUR INNER RESPONSES, KNOWING THAT THEY ARE THERE, INCREASES OUR SELF-AWARENESS” …. SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR
Many great people and leaders have said and quoted about importance of education in one’s life. In my earlier write-ups on education I have mentioned about the great work done by teachers to improve the quality of education imparted to students, some of them exceptionally, have gone out of their way, to spend from their salary to provide the basic facilities and improve amenities of the school, to get more students into the school. Their efforts have been tireless, consistent, focused, the most important reason being EDUCATION should not be stopped reaching, to those young children in that village or town, despite the situations being very grave and worrisome. The alarming point is that, 8000 schools are mostly on their last legs, for lack of students’ strength, basic amenities, infrastructure, less number of teachers coming to those far flung places where the schools are situated and lastly parents shifting their children to private schools from Government Schools.
According to the data collected by the State School Education Department from Chief Educational Officers (CEO), in 32 districts across Tamil Nadu, 8900 schools in the State had below par student enrolment. Salem topped the list of, district-wise low-enrolment schools with 820 Government Schools having less than 25 students each. The CEO’s were earlier instructed to send a list on the number of elementary and high schools located near or within the higher secondary school premises, which was discussed in the CEO’s meet held in December. However, there was no clarity on whether the Government would act up on the list and initiate the merger of schools or wait till the next academic year to see if the enrolment can be improved.
The State has already informed the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD), that it had taken initiative to merge 1000 Government schools here. Besides this, funds were stopped for another 1950 low-enrolment schools under MHRD’s Samagara Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) Scheme to adhere to the guidelines reports said.
SSA was formed recently by merging two major erstwhile schemes Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Class I-VIII) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (Class IX-XII). Schools with less than 15 students each are not eligible to receive a composite grant, according to SSA guidelines. Grants ranging from Rs.25000 to Rs. 1 lakh were distributed to Government Schools depending on their strength to improve infrastructure, buy materials to develop students’ reading skills and carry out other developmental activities.
Though Rs. 97.18 crores were sanctioned for Tamil Nadu by SSA, only Rs. 89 crores were released this year. Many of the low-enrolment schools were located in districts such as Salem, Erode and Dindigul. As said by a State School Education Department official that, “the data was collected, so that, Government could act on it next year and these school buildings could be converted into libraries or adult learning centres after the merger. However, the Government order issued in this regard continues to remain dormant till date”.
As opined by Educationalist, Sri. Prince Gajendra Babu, he, “condemned this move and said the fund cut will destroy Government Schools and it was unfair to expect parents to admit their wards in Schools without basic facilities or adequate teaching staff”.
Now, what was feared or dreaded to happen, has come to a point of NO-U TURN reality for the situation to be revived, restored or a cause of improvement. Unless and until something is decided policies wise, funding wise, increase the number of students coming to Government Schools, recruit more number of teachers, improve the basic facilities, infrastrure, on a war footing within this academic year, at least the academic year would see something better and good for the students studying in Government Schools.
Be it merging of schools, having in mind, the commutability or accessibility for the students to the schools when merged, betterment of infrastructure, amenities, basic facilities like water, toilets, good environment, sufficient number of teachers to teach, teaching tools like smart class, computers, good library, unless and until these are improved, there will be a definite possibility of the Government schools not only lost to the cause of low-attendance, but also on its last legs of CLOSURE.
IT IS THE “NOW MOMENT” FOR THE STATE GOVERNMENT, TO PONDER, DECIDE, ON WAR FOOTING THE FATE OF THE GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS NUMBERING 8900’S FATE….
VIJAYASHREE RAMESH, CHENNAI BASED ADVOCATE.