November 2, 2020
TED NewsDesk, New Delhi: While various states across the country are preparing to reopen schools after the closure of seven months, the Odisha government ordered the districts to merge 8000 schools. These schools lie across 15 districts of Odisha with the enrollment of very few students.
Previously in March, the Department of School and Mass Education released a notification to initiate a merger of 11,517 schools. The low registration led the government to take this decision. Over 6350 schools, including primary, secondary and higher schools, do not have more than 20 students while 5177 have less than 40 students.
The authorities failed to carry forward the process owing to COVID-19 outbreak and the lockdown following it. The revised notice applies to the schools having not more than 20 students. In its recent survey, the Department of School and Mass Education discovered an additional of 2000 schools having less than 20 admissions for the union.
The state termed the merger as Consolidation and Rationalisation of schools. The project is a part of the Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital in Education (SATH-E) programme of NITI Aayog.
” The merger is final. We have identified around 8,000 schools in 15 districts which will be merged with other schools due to low enrollment,” School and Mass Education Minister Samir Ranjan Dash said.
As per the statements of the department officials, the students living at far off places will get a grant of Rs 20 per day. If the distance between the school and their residence exceeds the one-kilometre range, they will facilitate students with a travel allowance per the Right to Education (RTE) laws. Also, the department will provide a one-time aid allowance of Rs 3000 to the kids affected by the closure of schools.
The step resulted in an objection from activists and parents across the state. Activists alleged that the move violates section 3 and 8 of the RTE Act.
” Majority of these schools are from tribal belts on hilly terrains. Closure of schools in a village will only increase the dropout rate as it won’t be feasible for students to travel far to attend school. Geographical constraints should also be considered before closing down schools,” said Anil Pradhan, Convener, Odisha RTE forum.
Residents of Padupada, a village in Deogarh district, forwarded a letter to the Block Education Officer. They further gathered and encircled his office when they came to know about the fusion of a school with the single primary school of the village. In yet another protest in Ganjam, people opposed the decision to merge 433 upper primary and primary schools. The locals of Chasa Kanamana, a village in Chatrapur block sat on dharna.
A parent remarked, ” Most of us here migrate for work, leaving our children with their grandparents. A school within the village ensures they attend classes regularly. If it is far, it will not be possible for students to travel by themselves.”
Apart from the education-based suffering, the parents also raised their concern about the deprivation of midday meals.
“The district collectors have been authorised to cancel the merger if genuine concerns arise. I will also personally oversee them. We understand if there are geographical constraints like crossing a water body or National Highway, it will be difficult for students. All these concerns will be taken into consideration,” Dash commented on the concerns.
The minister informed that the government is yet to finalise the date of reopening of educational institutions.
In 2017, Odisha along with Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand was nominated by NITI Aayog to receive aid for development in education and health sectors under SATH-E scheme. Besides establishing landmark states for education, the plan looks forward to modifying elementary and secondary school education via purpose-based activities. It is likely to flourish by the end of 2020.
Uniting schools is an initiative which aims at succeeding due to its process which is designed to assist teachers, laboratories, play equipment, libraries and other “consolidate resources.
Source: Indian Express