Gujarat: 5,100 primary schools with poor enrolment record to be merged

RITU SHARMA
According to the education department standards, these schools are non-viable where there are very few number of students compared to teachers. (Representational)

CITING poor functioning, monitoring and non-viability, the state education department, under its school consolidation plan , decided to merge the government primary schools with poor enrolment record with schools located within one-kilometre radius. The process will be conducted in a phased manner where to initiate with, some 2,500-3,000 government primary schools will be merged with other government schools, likely next month.

According to the education department standards, these schools are non-viable where there are very few number of students compared to teachers. Nearly 33,000 government primary schools are running in the state. Out of this, 5,100 schools have less than 100 students and nearly 15-20 upper primary schools have an enrolment of even less than 25 in Classes VI to VIII.

This was revealed in the report accessed by The Indian Express of a detailed survey concluded on July 31 in each district where the district primary education officers (DPEOs) were directed to personally verify schools.

A similar decision was passed in 2013 where, out of nearly 33,000 primary schools, 13,450 primary schools with 100 and less students and similarly, some 6,826 primary schools with 50 and even less students were identified. However, 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.

When asked, the education department s principal secretary Vinod Rao said, Precaution has been taken so that no teacher or student gets adversely affected by the decision. Also, teachers of these merged schools will be shifted to the nearby schools as far as possible and will not be transferred outside the district.

This is why this time the state education department is focusing on those that have a second school within one-kilometer distance. Thus, there is a drop in the number of non-viable schools this time from 2013.
The highest number of schools that have been identified in the recently concluded survey falls in districts of Banaskantha, Dahod, Kheda and Panchmahal, while the least are in municipal corporations of Surat, Rajkot
and Vadodara.

Besides, the earlier 2013 plan to merge two schools – for girls and boys – running separately from one building has been dropped this time. Despite several measures like roping in village sarpanch and School Management Committees (SMC), this was strongly objected by the villagers.