Pune: Around 300 primary schools run by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) would not implement students counselling programme this year as the civic body has diverted funds allotted for the project to pay salaries of contractual teachers. Around 1 lakh students attend these schools.
Under the project, the Academy of Personality Development Pune has been conducting counselling sessions for the past eight years. It has helped many students deal with issues related to addiction, sexual, physical and emotional abuse and learning disabilities.
“We started a pilot project of counselling sessions in 65 schools with 15 counsellors in 2009. As the PMC’s Education Board realised the importance of the activity, a budgetary provision of Rs 25 lakh was made for 2010-11. With the help of more NGOs, counselling sessions were held in 160 schools. However, the project was later restricted to the Academy of Personality Development Pune as the other organisations were not as efficient.
The project was extended to almost all PMC schools from 2012-13,” Pavan Gaikwad, Project Coordinator, Academy of Personality Development Pune, said.
He said in 2016-17, a three-year contract was signed with the NGO, however, it is not being renewed by the PMC this year.
Speaking with Sakal Times, Sheetal Ugale, Additional Municipal Commissioner said, “We needed to increase the salaries of 175 contractual teachers working in PMC schools from Rs 6,000 to Rs 10,000. As this decision was made after the budget, we didn’t have funds for that. So, we sought approval from the General Body and decided to divert the counselling funds for the salaries.”
She said the PMC thought providing teachers was more important than having counselling sessions. “We couldn’t conduct a qualitative and quantitative assessment of whether the counselling was really helpful or not. But if the NGO wishes, it can still carry on the activity using its own funds. We have many other NGOs that are working with us without any funds from our side,” Ugale said.
RTE activist Mukund Kirdat said in today’s world, counselling is a must for all educational institutes. “Many schools are now appointing full-time counsellors. Considering the background of the children coming to the PMC schools, these sessions are much needed there,” he said.
He said, “The objective of government schools is not just to pay their teachers to teach the syllabus, but even to create individuals, who are literate and stable. So, diverting funds from this much-needed activity is not right.”