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No Child Left Behind?

A recent study reveals that overall, 16% primary and 23% upper primary schools in rural India did not receive any Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan-related grants in the financial year 2008-2009.

delhi Updated: Aug 19, 2010 15:25 IST
Abhijit Patnaik

51% schools that received school maintenance or development grants under the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) did not have usable toilets, 21% schools did not have working hand pumps and 27% 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.

School grants (for development, maintenance, building new classrooms and for teaching materials) are critical to the day to day functioning of the school since they are meant to be spent on school infrastructure.

The SSA was launched in 2001, aiming at providing quality elementary education to 192 million children by establishing new schools, strengthening the infrastructure of existing ones and providing trained teachers and other academic support though its vast outlay. Over Rs 27,000 cr was allocated under the SSA last year. However, a 2007 Planning Commission Working Paper pointed out, “the connection between release of funds by the central government and actual expenditures for physical inputs by the implementing agencies is currently, very obscure”. The PAISA report tracks whether money promised for various purposes reaches the schools, and how it was used.

Schools receive their grants, but rarely on time. For example, at least 40% of schools had not received grants for the financial year 2009 when the survey was undertaken in October 2009. Less than half of upper primary schools reported receiving the maintenance and development grants in the first half of the same year.

“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”, says 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.

“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 NIPFP. “A large majority of schools get their money in the first half of the school year in Himachal and Kerala. Getting money early is an important incentive to grassroots planning envisaged under the SSA. If plans are made in the beginning of the school year and funds are available, then the schools have the time to spend them effectively over the whole year. If funds are released only with a few months to go, operationalising these plans is not easy and this defeats the purpose.”

It seems administrative inefficiencies and a lack of coordination have once again resulted in the outcomes being far from ideal.

Large % of schools don’t get funds in the beginning of the year

75% primary and 72% upper primary schools reported that they did not receive the classroom grant between April 2009-October 2009.

33% primary and 36% upper primary schools reported that they did not receive the School Maintenance grant between April 2009-October 2009.

36% primary and 41% upper primary schools reported that they did not receive the School Development grant between April 2009-October 2009.

Source : “Do Schools Get Their Money” , PAISA report August 2010.