| Ahmadabad |
Published: March 14, 2020 6:01:09 am
Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama on Friday stepped back on the decision to merge government primary schools with low enrolment and said that the state government is yet to take a decision.
Responding to the concerns and objections raised by the Opposition over the decision in the Assembly, Chudasama said a case-to-case survey of such schools would be conducted.
Debates over plan to merge government primary schools have been going on for around six months where the education department has already identified nearly 5,100 “non-viable” schools to be merged-with very few students and high number of teachers. “No decision to merge government primary schools has been taken yet by the state government. Survey of schools where there are very few students in two government schools within one kilometre radius is in process,” Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama informed the House. Making the state government’s case for merging, the Minister stated that it was aimed at improving the quality of education.
“There are many schools where there are around 30 students from Class I till VIII with one or two teachers in each school. Also, the survey reveals that within one kilometre, there is one school with 15 students and the other with only five. On one hand, we complain that a Class III student can’t read or write and on the other, we object to merging of such schools,” the Minister said in the House.
As per the education department’s decision in August 2019, in the first phase, around 3,000 government primary schools were to be merged with other government schools within a month. These are out of an estimated number of 5,100 government primary schools across the state with an enrolment of less than 100 and have a second government primary school within one-kilometre radius.
However, due to opposition and protests by Congress, educationists, organisations and teachers associations citing the right to free and compulsory education under the Right to Education (2009) Act, the state government did not give nod to the plan.
During the discussion, a few Congress MLAs expressed their resentment and concerns over the merger plan, Congress MLA Anantkumar Patel from Vansda assembly constituency in Navsari district said that tribal areas would be affected most with the merger.
Indrajitsinh Parmar, Congress MLA from Mahudha assembly constituency in Kheda district asked when after every praveshotsav (annual enrolment drive) the state government claims of an increase in enrolment, why the schools were being closed down.
Bayad Congress MLA Jasubhai Patel echoed similar concerns while Jamnagar MLA Vikram Madam raised the issue of how land mafia would be encouraged with the decision to close government schools. “With the closing down of schools in villages, the land mafia will take over the huge area of closed school buildings and the land,” said Madam.
Not the first time
A similar decision to merge schools was passed in 2013 where out of nearly 33,000 primary schools, 13,450 primary schools with 100 and less students, and some 6,826 primary schools with 50 and even less students were identified. The department had planned to merge these schools with the nearest school. However, then also it could not be implemented due to protests from villagers, civil society, educationists as well as teachers associations citing violation of Right to Education Act that mandates every child to have free and compulsory education from the age of 6-14 years of age.
Gandhinagar North MLA CJ Chavda accused the state government of commercialisation of education, failure in checking exorbitant fees charged by private schools and schools running without requisite permission.
Gyasuddin Shaikh representing Dariyapur assembly constituency suggested to open English medium and smart government schools and requested to start the process for admission under 25 per cent reserved seats under RTE Act at the earliest.
The opposition also raised issues of lack of teachers across schools and colleges, huge number of schools without compound wall, less than required number of classrooms, closing down of branches in engineering colleges.
In response to these, the Education Minister said, “Measures like online attendance for students and teachers has resulted in regular attendance, regular tests, paper box authentication and tracing application to check paper leak in board exams, Gujarat School Accreditation Council, QR codes in textbooks, finishing schools for honing soft skills of college students, tablets to college students and schools of excellence have and will all result in further better results.”
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