Many government schools across the State suffer from poor student strength and lack of basic infrastructure, a survey has found.

The sample survey, conducted by Sama Kalvi Iyakkam – Tamil Nadu (SKI-TN) in December, studied 100 government schools in eight districts.

It found that two schools in Ramanathapuram and Vellore districts had only one student, 20 schools in rural Salem did not have functional toilets, and a school in Pazhayanoor in Tiruvannamalai district had only two teachers for 187 children.

The survey attributes the poor strength to several reasons, including the lack of toilets, absence of drinking water facilities, distance to the school, and lack of neighbourhood schools despite the Right to Education Act, 2009 (RTE) norms.

The sample survey is part of the SKI-TN’s ongoing campaign to bring attention to issues such closure of schools and effective implementation of the RTE act.

The survey was conducted in Chennai, Virudhunagar, Ramamanthapuram, Pudukottai, Salem, Dharmapuri, Vellore, and Karur, said Chella Selvakumar, general secretary, SKI.

SKI-TN is demanding that the government not close or merge any schools citing poor strength of students, that it start neighbourhood schools in all habitations as per RTE norms, constitute school management committees in all schools and make them functional, construct functional toilets, provide potable drinking water and transportation, and consider all persons under the age of 18 children, as per the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

P. Krishnamoorthy, state committee member, SKI, said they checked schools for basic factors such as student strength, number of teachers, infrastructure such as toilets and classrooms and accessibility.

“A team comprising member from organisations including CRY, NCPCR, and SKI visited the Karipatti Government High School in Salem district recently, and found that most of the 309 students, mostly Dalits, had classes under a tree, or in a temporary shelter after the school building was demolished to make way for the widening of a highway a few years ago. Some girls have dropped out because of lack of toilets, and some were developing skin irritations because of insects such as caterpillars on the grounds,” he said, adding that students were not in favour of the proposed site of the new building as it was on a remote hillock.

Though Chennai is urbanising rapidly, no new schools have been opened in the past few years, he said. “While in rural areas the trend is of merging schools, in urban areas, there is a need to open more schools,” he said.

In 2009, the Chennai Corporation merged 30 schools in areas such as Chintadripet, Thousand Lights, Chamiers Road, and T. Nagar with those nearby. He also pointed to the poor condition of the Adi Dravida Welfare School on the outskirts of Chennai covered as part of the survey, and said that at least three such schools were single teacher schools.

“We are conducting an in-depth survey of 500 schools in 25 districts and the findings of that survey will be complete in February,” said Mr. Selvakumar.