Even as the Punjab government claims to have been making efforts to attract children to government schools, the number of students in primary schools in Gurdaspur district has been on a consistent decline.
The students of primary schools get free uniform, books and mid-day meal, besides a stipend of Rs 50 per month. Majority of the children studying in these schools come from the marginalised sections of the society.
District education officer (primary) Didar Singh said, "At present, there are a total of 47,948 students, including 23,041 girls, in government primary schools of the district."
He admitted that there has been a decline in the number of students this time as compared to the last year.
The government has launched Parvesh Project to keep a track on the progress of primary school students to impart them quality education.
Veena Kumari, a teacher at Government Primary School, Mirpur, said there were instances where students failed to improve despite sincere efforts made by teachers.
She maintained that the poor financial status of these students was the reason they were opting out of their studies. The prolonged absence of such children from schools makes teachers' task even more difficult.
Though most of these schools have requisite furniture, they are still lacking in terms of overall infrastructure.
A pucca classroom at Government Primary School, Mirpur, has developed cracks in its walls.
Veena said the matter had been brought to the notice of the district education authorities and state school education board several times but to no avail.
The DEO claimed that the schools had sufficient teaching staff.
"These students are getting their stipend deposited in their bank accounts online. We recently disbursed Rs 1 crore for the students," he informed.
The attendance of students at primary schools in remote areas of the district is generally low.
Kanta Devi and Varinderjit Kaur, teachers at Government Primary School, Barnala, said only a few parents come to attend the parent-teachers meetings held every month.
Veena said the department sent a doctor once a month to the school, which was not sufficient. She pointed out that there were a few anaemic girl students who needed immediate medical attention as their parents could not afford their treatment.