A letter issued by the Punjab education department ended up spreading rumours of mass exodus of students from the six Senior Secondary Residential Schools for Meritorious Students in the state. The letter, later termed “wrong” by the minister, categorically mentioned that 894 students had left these schools due to various reasons. The number was later put at “around 300”.
What was the purpose of the letter? Issued to the scholarship department, it said that such meritorious students who had left these six schools but were studying at other places should be provided with funds under the Dr Hargobind Khurana Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme — that is, `30,000 per annum for Class 11 and 12 to those who get more than 80% marks in Class 10.
Such students who are already in the six ‘meritorious schools’ — run under the Society for Promotion of Quality Education for Poor and Meritorious Students of Punjab — do not need this scholarship as they anyway get free coaching and lodging.
Daljit Singh Cheema, the state education minister, clarified that nearly 300 students from the state had left the meritorious schools at the beginning of the session, citing homesickness and other reasons; while a few left later due to medical reasons or other family issues. “The letter issued by the department had written a wrong figure, which was corrected immediately by the department authorities. The letter had accidentally included around 600 students who had never even turned up for admission,” Cheema claimed.
“We have asked the department officials to provide the Dr Khurana scholarship to those too who have taken admissions in other schools, as no bright student should be left without benefits provided by the government,” he added.
Cheema said that at present around 2,400 students are studying in the six meritorious schools in Class 11 across the state. According to the project, poor students from government schools with 80% and above marks in Class 10 are to get free education in Class 11 and 12 in medical, non-medical and commerce streams at these schools. In all, 3,300 students of Class 10 had bagged 80% marks in the board examinations last year, and 2,400 thus joined these schools in Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Patiala, Bathinda and Mohali.
Cheema added that the students would be provided with free coaching for competitive examinations at the beginning of the academic session in March after their Class-11 examinations.