Delhi’s south civic body orders merger, closure of 29 primary schools

In an order issued by the SDMC education department on Thursday, the additional director (education) stated that the municipal commissioner has accorded administrative approval for merging five schools in central zone, one in South zone, 15 in West zone and eight in Najafgarh zone
The merger will be operationalised from April 1, 2022, on commencement of the new academic session, and the zonal directors have been asked to submit proposals for transfer of principals, special educators, teachers, school attendants and other staff members who will be rendered surplus after the merger. (Representational image/AP File)
The merger will be operationalised from April 1, 2022, on commencement of the new academic session, and the zonal directors have been asked to submit proposals for transfer of principals, special educators, teachers, school attendants and other staff members who will be rendered surplus after the merger. (Representational image/AP File)
Updated on Jan 15, 2022 01:14 AM IST
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The South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) has issued orders for the merger and closure of 29 primary schools run by the civic body -- mostly double-shift schools -- with officials claiming that the idea is to reduce wasteful use of resources since many of these institutes do not have enough students. The order has elicited sharp reactions from teachers’ unions and several education activists who feel the move raises questions on SDMC’s claims of a rise in student enrolments due to the pandemic.

In an order issued by the SDMC education department on Thursday, the additional director (education) stated that the municipal commissioner has accorded administrative approval for merging five schools in central zone, one in South zone, 15 in West zone and eight in Najafgarh zone. The schools are located in places like Ambedkar Nagar, Nangal Raya, Uttam Nagar, Dabri, Madipur, Okhla, Noor Nagar among other sites.

A senior education department official said that most of the schools being merged are operating in double shifts. “There is a morning shift school and an evening shift school in most of the 29 cases. The overall number of enrolled students has indeed gone up but in these schools, there are enough rooms to accommodate students in both shifts together. Right now, we are forced to use double the number of workforce -- teachers, principals, etc -- for imparting education to the students. The merger will make the system more efficient and lead to savings,” said the senior official, requesting anonymity.

The merger will be operationalised from April 1, 2022, on commencement of the new academic session, and the zonal directors have been asked to submit proposals for transfer of principals, special educators, teachers, school attendants and other staff members who will be rendered surplus after the merger.

The number of municipal primary schools across has been on a decline with several mergers occurring over the last five years. Over 300,000 students are currently enrolled in the 568 primary schools run by SDMC, and the corporation has claimed that it has added more than 93,000 new students in the current academic session. Data from SDMC shows that the corporation was operating 605 primary school with 283,737 students in 2016-17.

In 2018, North MCD has also decided to merge and close 20 primary schools citing low enrolment numbers.

Studies have shown there is an increase in enrolment in government schools across the country due to financial constrains created by the pandemic.

Kuldeep Khatri, who heads the Nagar Nigam Shikshak Nyay Manch -- a municipal teachers association, said that the merger of such a large number of schools raises questions on claims of rising enrolment. “The merger clearly shows that the data pertaining to a nearly 100,000 increase in number of students is questionable. The schools are merged only when the number students goes down in double shift system schools. In the past, schools have been merged when the number went down below 150 students in a shift,” Khatri said.

Khagesh Jha, an education activist who heads the Forum for Indian Parents, said that while a general shift system is better, the merger clearly shows that the rise in number of students should be audited. “If the number of students is indeed rising, the number of shifts in schools should be increased. The same steps of merger of schools and using the buildings for non-education purposes has been repeated in the past by municipal corporations,” he said.

Jha said that thousands of students are out of the school system and many are studying in unrecognised schools. “If corporations have extra infrastructure, they should focus on ensuring the return of these children to the school system under Right to Education,” he added.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2022