Himachal government pulls the plug on 285 schools with zero enrolments
Himachal government had taken the decision to close down schools with zero enrolments and merge those with very low numbers with nearby institutions earlier this month
In a late-night exercise to rationalise schools and staff, the Himachal Pradesh government closed down 285 schools with zero student enrollments across the state.
A notification to this effect was issued on Friday and among those affected were 228 primary schools and 57 middle schools. The staff working at the affected institutions have been transferred to other schools.
Deputy commissioners of districts concerned shall now take the decision on utilising the building and infrastructure left behind, after taking into account relevant factors and consulting all stakeholders.
A maximum of 26 middle schools have been closed down in the Shimla district, followed by 12 in Mandi. Similarly, 56 primary schools have been closed down in Shimla, followed by 48 in Kangra and 39 in Mandi.
Notably, the government had taken a decision to close down schools earlier this month and merge those with very low enrolments with nearby institutions. The same had come in the backdrop of a continued exodus of students from government to private institutions and the state opening a large number of schools sans requirement, both of which culminated into zero or very low enrolments.
Non-functional schools draining exchequer: Education minister
While deciding to close down schools with low enrollment, education Minister Rohit Thakur said the standard of education in the state declined during the five-year Bharatiya Janata Party-led government was for everyone to see in the Annual Status of Education Report and Performance Grading Index.
The minister claimed that the previous BJP government, for political gains, opened 920 institutions and offices — of which more than 320 were schools.
“No budgetary provisions or recruitment of staff was done for these schools,” he alleged, adding that the Congress government has adopted a liberal approach and set criteria to keep the schools running. He said keeping a large number of schools, even those with no enrollment would have drained the public exchequer.
Speaking about the staff working at the schools being closed, Thakur said, “Services of teachers posted in these schools can be used elsewhere, we have 3,145 single teacher schools and 455 without teachers. More than 12,000 posts of teachers are lying vacant in the state, the government will first make provisions for the budget than post teachers and then only set up schools on a need-based basis,”
As per the new criteria, only primary schools having a strength of 10 students or fewer were shut down. Similarly, the criterion for middle school was a minimum enrolment of 15 students, 20 for high schools and 25 for senior secondary schools.
The state government has also decided to shut down five out of 18 technical education institutions set up by the previous government.
The opposition BJP in Himachal has been crying hoarse over the move, with party legislators also black bands on their arms to mark their protest against the same during the state assembly’s budget session. The opposition had also staged a protest outside the chief minister’s office in Vidhan Sabha two days ago, wearing locks and chains around their neck to protest the closure of institutions.
Chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, meanwhile, said he would tour the state after the budget session and himself assess the need for setting up the educational institutions in the constituencies of BJP legislators.