Now back to schools for Team Kejriwal

Now back to schools for Team Kejriwal

When the Aam Aadmi Party government announced a 106 per cent increase in the Plan expenditure in the education budget last year, it raised hopes for the sector. The massive allocation was in line with Delhi government’s pre-poll agenda of making the city an education hub, and it set ambitious targets to fulfil this.

Though most of the work which was to be completed before this year’s budget is still pending, there is relief that the education sector has finally caught the government’s attention.

One of the main targets was to provide modern facilities and improve infrastructure in all 1,011 Delhi government schools. Fifty-four schools were selected to be developed into ‘model’ schools at par with private schools in the first phase, and the project was later to be extended to all its schools.

Sadly, the work has not been completed over the past one year at even one of the selected schools. But the government schools are content that it has at least begun.
“There was a time that it used to take years for getting small construction work approved from the government. The situation is much better now and the pace of the work being done is comparatively good,” says Shashi Bhushan, principal of Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalya at Mori Gate.  His school is among the selected 54.

“The work has been awarded to DTTDC (Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation). The government has held several meetings with us on this and the architects recently came for a survey. The work will start after Holi,” he said recently.
Bhushan adds that the target set for one year was too ambitious.

“It is a very long procedure and could not have completed in one year. Even now the DTTDC says they will complete it in the coming five to six months. But I will be satisfied if they manage to do it in one year, which will be a lot faster than any other government,” he says.

His school had asked for playing courts, a multi-purpose hall, and 20-22 classrooms in its wish-list submitted last year.

Recently, Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung had said, “Construction work is in progress for 25 new school buildings, sanctions have been issued for construction of 7,289 additional classrooms and 700 toilet blocks in existing schools. Further proposals for construction of school buildings on four vacant plots have been approved. Around 50 gram sabha sites have been identified for making allotment in favour of Directorate of Education to open new schools.”

Over the past year, the government has also roped in many NGOs for running programmes to improve the quality of education. From nurturing creative thinking among children to improving basic concepts in subjects like Math and Science, the NGOs are at work.

“Due to no-detention policy till class 8, a lot of students fail in class 9 as their basic concepts are not clear,” a principal at a north Delhi school says. The NGO Pratham took a test of all students. The children were helped where they lagged behind.

“It is not that this is happening for the first time but during this government’s rule, it is happening in a structured way,” says the principal. 

“We are analysing the class 9 results and till now we have seen a marked improvement. Also, teaching through creative methods has improved the attendance rate in primary classes,” SBV principal Bhushan adds.

But there is still a long way to go as far as improvements in both infrastructure and education standards are concerned.

Basic amenities like water and classrooms are still lacking at many schools in the national capital. Classrooms in tin sheds, not enough electricity and shortage of teachers are some of the perennial problems.

In one school, children from at least six sections attend classes in tin sheds, even as they wait for old rooms to be demolished and new ones built. “The order for a part of the old building to be demolished has already been given by the higher authorities but we have no idea when the work will start,” says a teacher at the government school in west Delhi.
Others alleged that there is no proper identification of schools which require improvement in infrastructure, and resources are being wasted.

“Recently, seven new rooms were approved for construction at a school in Ghitorni which already has 12 rooms vacant as it does not have much student strength. The approval for new rooms is only because it has been included in the list to be developed for ‘model’ schools. On the other side, no building is being constructed in east Delhi which lacks school buildings,” says C P Singh, president of Government School Teachers’ Association.   

He says the government has not been able to address the shortage of teachers.
“DSSSB (Delhi School Subordinate Selection Board) is a failure. There has been no promotion of guest teachers for last two years, and only 1,200 new teachers were appointed last year. The department has used only 40 per cent of the set budget for education till now,” he says.

Education Director Padmini Singla and Advisor to Education Minister Atishi Marlena remained unavailable for comment on the claim about the unutilised budget.
In the last Budget, the government had set a target to recruit 20,000 new teachers, which remains unachieved.

But Singh is optimistic that conditions at schools will improve soon.

“At least some work has been started in this one year,” he says.

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