Free footwear a big hit with boys

It is easier to list things that are not given free of cost to government schoolchildren than to keep track of the freebies offered to them. But what takes the sheen away is the delay in their distribution.

Textbooks (from class I to XII), notebooks (from class I to X), nutritious noon meal scheme (from class I to VIII), uniforms (from class I to VIII), schoolbags (from class I to XII), crayons (for class I to V), geometry boxes (from class VI to X), maps (class VI to X) footwear (from class I to X), bus passes (from class I to XII), bicycles (for class XI) and laptops (for class XII) are some of the freebies.

Apart from them, the students of all classes are subjected to annual eye screenings and those with vision problems are provided with free spectacles. Those who do not drop out of school after Class X are eligible for a yearly incentive of Rs. 1,500 in Class XI and Rs. 2,000 in Class XII and those who lose an earning member of their family get a bank fixed deposit of Rs. 50,000.

Though Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had announced the distribution of free footwear in January 2012 and students’ feet were measured during the last academic year, most of the schools received the footwear only this month.

Chief Educational Officer C. Amuthavalli attributed the delay to “time taken to manufacture the huge number of pairs.”

“It got delayed a bit because this is the first time we are distributing footwear. There won’t be any delay in the future," she claimed. Despite the delay, students of the Government Boys Higher Secondary School at Y. Othakadai here were elated to receive their new sandals with Velcro fasteners on Wednesday.

S. Rahul Prasad, a class VII student and son of a ‘Biriyani’ master, said that he was happy to receive a new pair of sandals as he had been walking barefoot ever since he lost his footwear a few months ago. Not very different was the reaction from another Class VII student M. Jeeva.

While the footwear was delayed, the bicycles for Class XI students are yet to be distributed.

"Schools will get to know the requirement for bicycles only after Class XI starts because some students might drop out after Class X and others might get transferred to another school. The delay is only because of this," explained N. Muthupandian, Assistant Headmaster of a school.

Laptops are given to students only after the completion of their Class XII public examination.

A Class XII student is eligible to get a laptop irrespective of whether he passed or failed, but he is ineligible if he has absented himself even from a single subject.

Headmasters of individual schools hand the laptops to the students after making an endorsement on the back of their public examination mark sheets.

"When these laptops are given only on completion of schooling, I do not understand why they come loaded with the school syllabus," wondered T. Selvam, father of a Class XII student.

A. Muthukumaraseshan, Headmaster of Government Higher Secondary School for Girls at Ulaganeri, said that it served the dual purpose of appreciating the student for having studied up to Class XII besides persuading him/her to opt for collegiate education.