CN Patna, the lab for merger plan

Shifting of schools: Govt cajoles parents to retain student strength

The decision, likely to be effective from November 14 (Children’s Day), will create new learning environment to as many as 1,626 students of 35 government schools in 70 villages of Channarayapatna taluk. The transfer of students is coming at a price.

Effecting the shift from one school to the other will cost Rs 1,500 per student over the next four to five months. In addition, Rs 300 will be spent per student per month on providing transport facility. The mode of transport is autorickshaw. As many as 5,000 autos are required to provide transport to 1,626 students. The department has tied up with philanthropists to meet the additional cost.

To make the government schools attractive and to discourage parents from sending their wards to private schools,  the Department of Public Instructions will provide a new set of uniform clothes,  a pair of shoes, a bag, a belt, a diary and a book on basics of English, published by Oxford Publications. The ‘retaining’ efforts will cost not less than Rs 18.91 lakh in Channarayapatna taluk alone.

The office of the Deputy Director of Public Instruction of Hassan is making all out efforts to ensure that the change is smooth and quiet. Channarayapatna may serve as a model with the successful completion of the experiment. The objective is to ensure sufficient number of students in classes so as to inspire teachers.

A sum of Rs 38 lakh has been sought from the Finance department for the next five months to provide incentives in the form of books, uniforms etc, to ensure children are not pulled out of government schools after merger/closure.

The Department is going ahead with the merger/closure proposal amid even as pro-Kannada organisations and Kannada chauvinists have been crying hoarse. Local bodies have been asked to identify schools for closure. The closure will be effected in the event of presence of an alternative government school in a three-kilometer radius of the school identified for closure.

Primary and Secondary Education Minister Vishveshwara Hegde Kageri has already announced that the schools that might be closed would be reopened in case of demand from local people. However, there is no scope for one-student-one-teacher schools and a class should have at least 25 students.

The school buildings which would fall vacant subsequent to closure/merger, would be utilised to house anganwadi centres or public libraries. There is no retrenchment of teaching staff. The teachers will temporarily be transferred to higher primary schools. The Government Order issued on September 24 says that every year, before commencement of classes, the deputy directors should identify schools which could be closed down for want of students. However, no school will be closed in the hilly areas of the Malnad districts or in the isolated villages of the coastal districts.

While the government claims the process as merger of schools, in real terms it translates into closure, albeit temporarily. According to the notification the merger should commence from October.

In all, 617 lower primary schools (LPS)  have been identified across 34 education districts in the State for the merger. As many as 3,085 students in these schools are aged below 11 years. The schools with less than five students have 1,052 sanctioned teachers posts of which 214 posts are vacant.  On an average, the government spends Rs 1.5 to Rs two lakh per annum towards salary of a LPS teacher. Higher primary schools too have large number of vacancies. The merger decision will thus enable the government to fill up vacancies apart from saving lakhs of rupees on salaries. The State has 48,000 government schools.

In case the government hardens its stand on closing lower primary schools which have few students, then it has more jobs on hand. It has identified 2,557 LPSs with less than 10 students and there are 2,681 schools with more than 10 and less than 15 students, in 35 education districts. However, the government is not going ahead with closure/merger proposal in respect of these schools fearing a backlash.

Hassan district tops the list of LPSs with poor student strength. There are 89 LPSs which have less than five students. The political bigwigs of the district have managed to get schools sanctioned for every hamlet.

The second in the list is Tumkur with 57 LPSs identified for closure. Like Hassan, Tumkur too has many influential politicians who can pull strings at the government level to get what they want. Tumkur is followed by Chikmagalur, Madhugiri and Ramangara where there are LPSs with hardly any student strength.  

Few takers

The demand for education in mother tongue has gone down with the growing craze for English medium schools. The government statistics show that though at primary level parents may send their children to Kannada medium schools, they opt for English medium in high schools.

There are 18,185 schools in urban areas of which 12,543 and 5,642 are elementary and high schools respectively. While 39.14 per cent of government elementary schools are in urban areas, unaided and other category schools constitute 45.62 per cent of schools. 12.83 per cent of high schools in urban areas are run by government, 23.36 per cent schools are aided and 59.90 per cent of schools are fun by private institutions.

This implies that while a high proportion of elementary schools in urban areas are in the government sector, a large number of high schools in urban areas are run by private and unaided managements.

The admissions at the first standard have marginally declined except in private schools. This could be due to the decrease in population too, the analytical report of the department for the current year says.

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