Bhubaneswar, Oct 24:Education activists and CSOs across the state have opposed the state government’s move to close schools with low student strength as it will increase drop-outs among children, especially in the tribal and backward regions of the state where children mostly depend on government schools for their education.
Due to the government’s move, around 14339 primary and upper primary schools in the state will face imminent closure.
Though, the School and Mass Education Minister Mr Samir Dash had told the media that no schools would be closed and admission will resume in all the schools, media reports have raised question over the government’s hiding agenda as the school closure is going on in the state.
Therefore, activists and Civil Society members have urged the government to rethink on it, as it will have a high bearing on the public education system of the state and most importantly, it violates the spirit of ensuring free and compulsory elementary education to all children as per the Right to Education Act 2009.
Naba Kishor Pujari, an education rights activist and a member of RTE Forum, said “Schools are being closed administratively without much publicizing it. The School closer/merger policy is also a clear violation of section 3 and 8 of the RTE which guarantee free and compulsory education to every child and also ensures that the child belonging to weaker sections and the child belonging to the disadvantaged group are not discriminated against and prevented from pursuing and completing elementary education on any grounds”.
“Unfortunately, the state government which is arguing that schools are being closed in the effort to impart the quality of education, is a myth as there is no evidence that support the logic. Rather, it will have a life-long impact on the education of children and especially from the tribal, Dalit and other marginalized communities”, said Mr Pujari.
Another activist Mr Anil Pradhan who is also the Convener of Odisha RTE Forum says that their forum opposes the government’s move to close government schools in the name of the low enrolment of children.
“Majority of the schools closed citing the rationalization tag, are from tribal and backward regions such as Rayagada, Mayurbhanj, Kandhamal and Koraput. Tribal habitations generally have small hamlets spread across the village separated by natural barriers. Closure of schools without adhering neighbourhood norm will further increase the distance between habitation and the schools” said Mr Pradhan.
“The anecdotal evidence clearly shows that children, especially at the primary level, find it difficult to walk a longer distance and tend to be absent from the school regularly. With the school far away from their village, parents often hesitate to send off their kids the neighbourhood school as they find it difficult to keep a tab on them”, Mr Pradhan added.
Recently, Odisha RTE Forum has sent a letter to the Chief Minister Mr Naveen Pattnaik urging to reconsider the school closer policy as this will leave education of marginalised children in the lurch.
According to a report shared by the school and Mass education Department, 6340 schools will be permanently closed where the enrolment of children is below 20 as well as another 5177 primary schools will face closer where children attendance remains below 40. The school closure move is a process that is led by NITI Ayog under its ‘Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital in Education (SATH-E)’ project where Odisha government plays a pivotal role in implementing it.
The National Sample Survey Organization’s 2017-18 household survey has revealed a shocking figure which says that the out-of-school children number in India (6-17 years) is now at 32.2 million and it will be doubled in a year.
The World Bank has also recently warned that the Pandemic induced school shut down would cost India over $400 billion. Therefore, activists and civil society groups have urged the government to take back its decision of closing schools abruptly and instead implement the RTE Act effectively.