Education may be a right, but few schools are left

Open and shut case

Education may be a right, but few schools are left

As many as 153 Kannada medium schools in Tumkur district alone have been facing the threat of closure due to shortage of students. Paradoxically enough, it is the new education policies which seek to ensure “education for all” that are hastening the death of the government schools.  

Despite Parliament passing the much-debated Right to Education Act, the State government providing facilities such as mid-day meal scheme and bicycles and several other measures initiated to ensure basic education for all children,  the majority of them in rural areas may have no school to go in the near future.

The worst-affected are the poor students from the economically and socially weaker sections in rural areas.

The previous year, 21 primary schools shut shop and this year, the Damocles’ Sword of closure is hanging on the 153 single-teacher schools with a student strength of five to 10. The teachers are likely to be transferred soon and these schools are waiting for the order from the Department of Primary Education to close down.  The students of the doomed schools will be left with three options: to join a private school which is not affordable for them; or to walk several kilometres to another nearest government school; or to drop out. As the first two options would not be feasible for children from poor families, particularly girls, they have no choice, but the third.

Only 791 higher primary schools in the district have no fear of closure, but are unable to face the competition from private schools.

The fast-growing private schools have arranged vehicles to ferry children from the far-off villages; and importantly, they teach in English medium from the pre-primary classes, which is the biggest attraction for the parents.

The number of private schools has also been increasing.  On the contrary, the government schools on the verge of closure, are in shambles. The only teacher is left with no time to teach as he/she has to cook food for mid-day meals; keep the accounts of foodgrains, articles bought for the school and do all the clerical work.  
Besides, there are several extra-curricular activities under Nali-Kali programme which have to be carried out compulsorily. Fearing the lack of effective teaching in the government schools, parents prefer to admit their children to private schools, even if it means stretching their household budget to breaking point.

The Government’s short-sighted educational policies alone are to be blamed for the abysmal standard of the government schools and their eventual closure.

Under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the Government sanctioned schools to every village with a minimum strength of 10-15 children. Many of the children in such villages didn’t join the government schools which lacked basic facilities. Now, the new policy stipulates that the schools with less number of students be closed.

Demand for high schools

According to B Mohan Kumar, DDPI, the schools now have facilities, but the parents are not willing to enrol their children. “We are not able to convince them.” However, the situation of high schools are different. He said several private high schools have decided to shut down as demand for seats in the government high schools has increased over the years. Private schools are unable to manage without an increase in admission and revenue. Every year nearly two private schools are closing down.  “There is demand for 20 more government high schools in the district. However, it is not possible to sanction so many schools due to infrastructural problems. There is a high school for every five km; of them, 130 are government, 200 aided and 113 unaided high schools.”

The primary schools have enough teachers, but in high schools, 84 posts of teachers are vacant, he added.

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