The proposal of the Primary and Secondary Education Minister Kimmane Ratnakar on improving infrastructure in government schools through corporate funding has left teachers and the School Development Management Committee (SDMC) wondering if this would, in effect, mean a power shift in favour of corporates in public education.

What worries them is not so much the donation per se, but the Minister’s suggestion that monitoring of the school development would now be done by the “infrastructure development committee” which will be headed by the highest donor, if the Minister has his way. The headmaster and the members of the SDMC will be part of the committee. “Government will not participate in the process. We will give full freedom to the donors,” Mr. Ratnakar said.

The teachers and SDMC members argue that this shift in authority is in conflict with the model SDMC bye-laws.Officials from the education department also point out that this new model of “developing” schools is different from the school nurturing programme, a model that was conceptualised in 2009, which aimed to get community participation by involving the donor as one of the nominated members of the SDMC.

Quoting her previous experience, a government high school headmaster in Bangalore said that while the donors showed “initial” excitement when the project started, it fizzled out gradually. “The donors or organisations mobilise individuals, bring them to school only to ensure that they get publicity and then they disappear. After all they are not accountable,” she said, adding that the task of providing water supply in the school was abandoned midway by an NGO last year.

Mohammed Mohsin, Commissioner for Public Instruction, said the government was in the process of evolving guidelines for the development of infrastructure. He said the project would be implemented in phases and priority would be given to develop infrastructural norms that were specified in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, which includes all-weather building, kitchen, adequate drinking water facility and separate toilets for girls and boys.

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