With rising complaints on the poor facilities and corruption at tribal ashramshalas or residential schools for tribals across the state, the government is now planning to admit the children to private residential schools instead of the regular government ones in phases.
In the first phase, about 80 such boarding schools with less than 30 students have been identified to be shut down after shifting the students.
The state has 528 tribal boarding schools meant for the education of 2.10 lakh students from more than 10 districts. Though the state spends more than Rs 450 crore on such schools, the facilities provided to the children are of poor quality with financial irregularities. The BJP government has decided to outsource the service by shifting students to private residential schools under its new schemes.
“Since 2009, we have been admitting tribal students to English medium private residential schools with the intention of bringing them into the mainstream so they can avail quality education. For the last two years, we changed our protocol and increased the number of seats to about 20,000. This has taken the total number of students studying in the such schools to 49,000 this year from just 6,000 students in 2014-15,” said Rajgopal Devara, principal secretary, tribal development department.
According to the officials, the expenditure that the government will incur by shifting the students to private residential schools will not only help them reducing the overall cost but also enable them to impart quality education to the children. “The private residential schools are given about Rs 60,000 a year per student for all the facilities including uniforms, accommodation, food and books among others. In government residential schools, the per student expenditure is higher than the one borne for students in private schools. In Ashram Shalas, the students are taught in Marathi mediums, whereas the private schools follow ICSE and CBSE pattern. With the change of policy, we hope to reduce the number of complaints related to the Ashram Shalas,” another official said.
Devar said that the shutting down of the Ashram Shalas will be done by shifting students to other schools or sending them to regular schools closer to their homes.
In a recent review by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, the department was directed to divert the number of students to private schools to improve on the quality. “We admitted 22,000 students in 122 private residential schools in various parts of the state. With the rise in the number in private schools, the Ashram Shalas have been finding it difficult to find students. But it will be logical to divert students to private schools rather than spending on huge government infrastructure and manpower. In some schools, such as Bhonsala Military School, tribal students have secured top numbers,” said another official.
Activists, however, rubbished the idea. “The conditions in the private schools too are not very great. The tribal students are isolated and given secondary treatment. Instead of addressing these problems, the government is planning to shut down the residential schools,” said Rupesh Keer of NGO Samarthan, which works for tribal issues.