Don't shut schools with low student strength: Activists
Bhubaneswar: 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.' Children there mostly depend on government schools for their education, they said.
Due to the government's move, around 14,339 primary and upper primary schools in the state may face imminent closure, activists said. Though, the School and Mass Education minister 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 agenda as schools closure is going on in the state, they alleged.
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 publicising it.' The schools closer/merger policy is also a clear violation of Sections 3 and 8 of the RTE which guarantee free and compulsory education to every child and also ensures that the children belonging to weaker sections and the children belonging to the disadvantaged group are not discriminated against and prevented from pursuing and completing elementary education on any grounds, he added.
'It will have a life-long impact on the education of children, especially from the tribal, Dalit and other marginalised communities,' said Pujari.
Another activist Anil Pradhan who is also the Convener of Odisha RTE Forum said that their forum opposes the government's move to close government schools in the name of low enrolment of children.
'Majority of the schools closed citing the rationalisation 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 to neighbourhood norm will further increase the distance between habitation and the schools,' said 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 to the neighbourhood school as they find it difficult to keep a tab on them,' Pradhan added.
Recently, Odisha RTE Forum sent a letter to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik urging him to reconsider the schools closure policy as this will leave education of marginalised children in the lurch.Suggest A Correction
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