Corporation’s education sector initiatives termed ineffective

The Right to Education Act (RTE Act) entrusted local bodies with immense powers and responsibilities for the improvement of infrastructure and academic standards in government schools in their area.

But the steps taken by the City Corporation, which spends around Rs.10 crore annually in the education sector, seems to be ineffective, says a performance report of the Local Fund Audit Department released along with the general audit report recently.

Allocation

The auditors found that the local body continued to ignore schools with old buildings that required major maintenance, while continuing to pump in funds to schools with relatively better infrastructure every year. Out of the ten schools that the audit team visited, eight were found to have poor infrastructure. Such a situation, even after a 2011 report by the Education Department stating that 44 government schools in the city were running unsatisfactorily, shows apathy on part of the local body, the report says.

Unhealthy space

As much as Rs.24 lakh was allocated to Government Upper Primary School, Beemappally, for a new building and for maintenance of existing buildings. But the project was abandoned following a delay in tender proceedings. Students take their midday meal in ‘an open unhealthy space.’ The pipe for drinking water is placed right next to the drainage pipe. Constant requests from the school authorities to the Corporation to improve the conditions were ignored. The number of students here has fallen from 1,142 in 2011 to 542 in 2013, partly due to the crumbling infrastructure. The number of divisions in all classes has been cut down by half.

Government Central High School, Attakulangara, one of the first English medium schools in the district, is also in a similar situation. The upper primary classes are being conducted in a shed with a damaged ceiling. There are no partitions between classes, a violation of the Kerala Education Rules. There is no facility for drinking water too, the report says.

The school, which can accommodate around 1,000 students, has only 67 students now from classes 1 to 10. The upper primary schools at Karamana and Fort also have poor facilities. At Boys Higher Secondary School (HSS), Karamana, the team found leaking drainages and overflowing washbasins adjacent to the classrooms.

The Corporation spent Rs.20 lakh each in 2011-12 and 2012-13 for the purchase of desks, benches, and other furniture in these schools. But many schools were found to have not even the bare minimum furniture. The auditors say such a situation is due to a lack of understanding of the institution’s needs when preparing projects.

At the Beemapally school, 150 desks and benches are required from classes from I to VII. But due to a shortage of desks, students in many classes find it difficult to write notes. Along with the report, the auditors have attached pictures of students kneeling down on the floor and taking down notes with their books placed on the benches. In 2012-13, the Corporation supplied just 20 desks and benches to this school.

To put the correlation between the fall in number of students and poor infrastructure in perspective, the auditors cited the case of Government HSS Cotton Hill and Government TTI Manacaud, which are getting funds annually to improve infrastructure. In both these institutions, the intake of students has increased in each of the preceding three years.