In the past five years, nearly 51 schools — most of them privately-owned — have closed in the district, and officials expect a few more to add to the list when schools reopen at the end of May.
According to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA), 35 out of the 51 schools closed are government unaided, 15 are government aided and five are government schools. However, they clarify that three government schools — for example, the one at Kana near Surathkal — have been ‘shifted’ while only the ones at Kapikad and Malavoor have been closed.
A major reason for closure, says N. Shivaprakash, SSA Deputy Project Coordinator, is the reduction in student strength and “saturation” of schools in the district.
In the past 10 years, nearly 100 schools have opened, while, student enrolment has reduced from 3.14 lakh in 2001-02 to 2.59 lakh in 2013-14. “That is, while 10 schools are opened every year, enrolment sees a dip of more than 4,000 students,” says Mr. Shivaprakash. Moreover, he says, access to schools — that is, schools within 3 km — has gradually reached 100 per cent, leading to immense competition. It isn’t surprising that more than two-thirds of the schools closed are in Mangalore taluk, he says.
Having seen their student strength drop from 90 (from classes 1 to 7) nearly a decade ago to just 12 now, V.K. Sharma, Principal of Muliya Thimmappayya Memorial High School near Vittal — established in 1995 — says the school had no choice but to close its primary wing to cut down losses of Rs. 5 lakh annually.
“Buses are plenty now, and students don’t mind travelling out of the area for English-medium schools… Moreover, there is a belief among the economically backward that private school students will not get government benefits such as Bhagyalakshmi scheme,” he says.
Similarly, aided schools — such as Hindu Upper Primary School in Kankanady — have suffered due to bad infrastructure and inability of the administration to reach out to the community, say officials of the Education Department.Government schools
However, in all the gloom in private schools, government schools fare better: though 20 are facing closure (with fewer than 10 students), only two schools have been closed so far, say officials at the Deputy Director of Public Instruction.