Kerala and Himachal Pradesh have been the best performers in utilising funds under the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), and West Bengal a poor one, says a study.
Of the schools that have received school maintenance or development grants under the SSA (universalisation of education), half of them do not have usable toilets, and one-fifth do without working hand pumps.
And 27 per cent schools that received classroom grants had not built a new classroom.
Such are the findings of a recently released report by PAISA — a joint initiative of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), the Accountability Initiative, a leading think tank in New Delhi, and the ASER Centre, an education NGO.
“Kerala and Himachal Pradesh are the two best states, and West Bengal has shown poor performance,” says Anit Mukherjee, associate professor and principal researcher of the report at the NIPFP.
The PAISA report tracks whether money promised for various purposes reaches the schools, and how it is used.
The SSA was launched in 2001, aiming at providing quality elementary education to 192 million children (according to the SSA website). More than Rs 27,000 crore was allocated under the SSA work plan in 2009-10, according to the 10th Joint Review Mission of the SSA. However, a 2007 Planning Commission Working Paper pointed out, “The connection between the release of funds by the central government and actual expenditures for physical inputs by the implementing agencies is currently, very obscure.”
Schools receive grants, but rarely in time. For example, at least 40 per cent of schools had not received grants for the financial year 2009-09 when the survey was undertaken in October 2009. Fewer than 50 per cent of upper primary schools have reported receiving maintenance and development grants in the first half of the year for which they are meant.
“There is a rush to spend at the end of the year so that schools can show ‘utilisation certificates’ — not being able to show these affects the size of the bigger grants they receive in succeeding years,” said Avani Kapur, coordinator of PAISA at the Accountability Initiative. “They don’t think about how best to spend the money in this rush,” she added.