Pune: While the State government’s decision to shut down around 1,300 Zilla Parishad schools in the state faced a lot of criticism, School Education Minister Vinod Tawde recently said in the Legislative Assembly that the relocation or merger of more than 700 schools might be on hold due to infrastructural hurdles.
“There are a total of 5,600 schools in the state that have just 10 or less students. Out of these, we selected 1,292 ZP schools for relocation. While we merged or relocated 568 schools, there are 341 others which are more than 1 km away from the tar road or kaccha road and have not yet been merged because we have not been able to make arrangements for transport of the students there. Also, there are 383 schools where there are many difficulties in the relocation process, hence we will not carry it out without discussions with the education officers, teachers and students,” Tawde said.
He added that the government would ensure that not a single student’s education is compromised, and will look after providing educational opportunities to students in remote and tribal areas in the state.
Education activists, student leaders and others had heavily criticised the government’s decision, calling it a conspiracy to bring in privatisation in the state’s education sector. The government was also issued a notice from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) regarding the same, as the decision has the potential to adversely affect the education of students in rural areas. The notice pointed out that the decision will hamper the purpose of RTE Act which states that the distance of the school from the student’s house should be less than 1 km till Std V and less than 3 km for Std VI to VIII. MLC Kapil Patil alleged that the government is shutting down government schools to give way to Patanjali fame Ramdev Baba to open schools across Maharashtra.
Mukund Kirdat, RTE activist who has been fighting against the decision from the beginning, said this statement by the education minister proves that earlier, the decision was made without a proper study.
“Though the government claimed they had carried out a proper survey before deciding to shut down around 1,300 ZP schools, the fact that they are finding problems related to the infrastructure now, after they started with relocation, proves it was a lie. So, the reasons stated by the government to close down the school, like increasing quality of education might as well be a farce. A detailed study of the schools was never done. The students at schools that have been merged were made to go through the whole process of relocation in the middle of the ongoing year. This could have easily been planned for the next academic year,” Kirdat added.
He said that to cut down on its own expenditure, the government cannot deny the right to education, of several thousands of children across the state.