Bangalore, September 10: The Department of Public Instruction is keen on merging Kannada medium primary schools which have less student strength with those having a higher strength. But it is not in a position to do so, at least this year, due to financial constraints for transporting students.
If the department wants to close down or merge the primary schools which have less than 10 students, students will have to be provided transport by the government, to travel more than one km in case of primary schools and three km in case of high schools. This is specified under the Sarva Shikshana Abhiyana (SSA) programme, the government’s flagship elementary education programme.
But there is no provision either under SSA or the Right to Education (RTE) Act to provide funds exclusively for transporting students from home to school.
This being the ground reality, the department is not merging or closing schools this year, according to G Kumar Naik, Secretary, Education Department (Primary and Secondary Education).
Naik, in an interaction with Deccan Herald, said, “We do not get money from the Centre towards transportation of students. So, I am not going to take up merger of schools this year. Unless I make a proper arrangement for funds, I am not going to merge schools. For every student, the government will have to spend not less than Rs 250 a month for transport. But, the department can’t provide money this year. Access should be a criterion while deciding to merge schools.”
The secretary said there was no doubt about the urgent need to merge schools, keeping students’ welfare in mind.
The government-appointed Prof R Govinda Committee on Structural Upgradation and Reorganisation of School Education in Karnataka recommended the merger of schools as many schools do not have sufficient student strength.
But the argument of the union ministry of human resources development is that it has been sanctioning funds under SSA for opening schools and improving quality of education. But it cannot absorb the transportation cost, he said.
As per official records, there are 693 government schools having just five or less enrolments, with 836 teachers and 2,510 schools having 10 or less enrolments, with 3,394 teachers against the sanctioned posts of 5,320.
Hassan tops the list of maximum number of schools having least number of students. It has 91 schools which have less than five students and 330 schools with less than 10 students. Chikmagalur, Tumkur, Sirsi taluk in Uttara Kannada district too have a large number of schools with less student strength.
The Govinda panel report, while listing the districts and schools with poor student strength, has suggested the government to merge these schools with nearby schools. Wherever it is not possible to shift the schools due to natural barriers or any other reason, they may be allowed to continue.
Official sources said not a single deputy director of public instruction (DDPI) has begun the process of merging schools.
A T Chamaraj, DDPI, Hassan said that 24 schools were merged in the district last year, but this time, no initiative was taken.
“In the last academic year, I had decided to provide students who had to travel more than a km with transportation facilities in order to reach school. The High Court has permitted the merger of schools. But we could not do so due to financial constraints. We need to spend no less than Rs 3,000 on students for providing transport,” he said.