Under fire Odisha govt spares schools with 15 students or more from closure
Succumbing to opposition against closure of schools with low number of students, the Odisha government has announced that primary and upper primary schools in scheduled areas with minimum student strength of 15 would not be shut down from the next academic session.
Communicating the decision, school and mass education minister Samir Ranjan Dash said the criteria of consolidating all schools in Schedule V areas with less than 20 students on rolls as well as schools with less than 25 students with similar schools within 1 km distance has been changed. ‘
“Instead, schools with less than 15 students in scheduled areas will be consolidated with nearby schools,” he said, adding that those that are being shut either face a shortage of teachers or do not have proper classroom and other necessary infrastructure.
As per the initial decision, 7,772 schools were to be shut down and merged with nearby bigger schools.
“The state government is working within the purview of the law. Its priority is to provide quality education to the students. Quality of education is getting affected due to the small schools. A better learning environment can be created at the big schools. The purpose is to provide primary and secondary education at one place,” he said.
Project director of Odisha school education programme authority, Bhupendra Singh Poonia said the government is yet to work out the exact number of schools that would be saved from being shut down after the latest decision.
The government’s decision came a day after a Congress MLA threatened to slit his throat if the government went ahead with its decision of closing the 7,772 schools.
“It’s a plan of the government to keep children away from their basic right of education. They must rethink the closure decision,” said Tara Bahinipati, Congress MLA from tribal-dominated Koraput district, where 800 schools were up for closure.
Earlier, deputy leader of the Opposition Bishnu Sethi questionated the rationale of the decision saying the closure would lead to more dropouts. “Nearly 11 lakh students enrol for class 1 every year but only 6 lakh students among these appear in the examination. Why nearly 5 lakh students drop out in the state,” he asked. “We will sit on dharna near the Odisha Assembly speaker’s podium if the State government does not reconsider its decision,” said Sethi.
Congress leader Narasingha Mishra said shutting down thousands of schools is taking away the right to education for the underprivileged children.
In two separate notifications issued by the state school and mass education department during August and September this year, the government had decided to shut down schools with student strength less than 20 in both scheduled and non-scheduled areas. The government argued that it would lead to improvement in the learning environment, better infrastructure facilities, better academic environment and co-curricular facilities for the students.
The move termed “consolidation and rationalisation” under Niti Aayog’s sustainable action for transforming human capital in education (SATH-E) project is already under implementation with several such schools being merged with the nearest bigger schools called the Lead Schools over the last few months.