Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan book fair: A range of books in different languages and genres were spread out at the Cotton Hill Government Higher Secondary School for Girls auditorium.

: Even before the publishers had finished setting up their stalls, students arrived in droves to check the book titles and make a mental note of the money they would need to bring the next day to buy them. A range of books in different languages and genres were spread out at the Cotton Hill Government Higher Secondary School for Girls auditorium Even the organisers could only shrug when asked how many titles were brought by the 75-odd publishing houses participating in the event.

This is the first such book fair being organised in the State under the aegis of the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan. After spending three days in the capital, the exhibition will be held in Kollam and Kannur on January 20 and 21, Pathanamthitta and Wayanad on January 23 and 24, Alappuzha and Kozhikode on January 27 and 28, Kottayam and Malappuram on 30 and 31, Ernakulam and Thrissur on February 3 and 4, Idukki and Palakkad on 6 and 7 and Kasaragod on 9 and 10.

Launched in 2009 by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, the RMSA seeks to improve the quality of education in high schools and higher secondary institutions, supplementing the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, which focuses on primary schools. Through this programme, the government aims to promote a culture of reading among youth by exposing them to a variety of literature and offering books at discount.

Going by the response of the Cotton Hill girls, the exhibition is already a success, with most students and teachers staying back after school to go through the books. While some crowded the academic books section and those profiling renowned personalities, others were more drawn to the collection offered by the Cambridge University Press for its relatively less familiar content. Minister for Education P.K. Abdu Rabb inaugurated the exhibition on Thursday. He praised the RMSA for helping the State government achieve a promise that was made by successive governments but had been left unfulfilled — to upgrade schools. “It is a huge financial undertaking to build up Lower Primary or Upper Primary schools to accommodate higher classes. But through the RMSA, we have upgraded 112 schools in the State. The next academic year will see an addition of 30 schools,” the Minister said.

He also noted that there were schools functioning without registration and this was prohibited under the Right to Education Act. The department would carry out a survey to identify such schools and those equipped with the right infrastructure, teaching staff, and student strength would be issued accreditation, Mr. Rabb added.

Science and sports kits

The function marked the launch of the RMSA scheme to distribute science and sports kits to schools. Around 2,570 government/aided institutions would be given Rs.15,000 each to develop their laboratories and around 100 government high schools would be given Rs.20,000 each to purchase sports equipment, said State Project Director of RMSA and Director of Higher Secondary Education Keshvendra Kumar.

Mr. Kumar added that from the Rs. 50,000 school grant given to each government high school under the RMSA, Rs. 15,000 to 25,000 should be spent on purchasing books for their libraries.