Sangeetha Unnithan

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The General Education Department has initiated works for digital mapping of schools in the State as part of the implementation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. The process will begin within a week.

The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), which is coordinating the project, has shortlisted an agency, the Palakkad-based non-profit organisation Maithri, for carrying out field works and preparing the digital school map of every educational sub-district. Nearly 15,000 schools right from the lower primary to the higher secondary sections, including unaided and unrecognised institutions, will be mapped.

“The main objective of school mapping is to create a spatial database of schools for determining the distance between schools and locating areas that do not have neighbourhood schools within the minimum distance prescribed under the Act,” James Varghese, Secretary, General Education Department, said.

List of schools

Officials of the department will provide a list of schools and the basic details to the implementing agency, which will then collect additional information required for the mapping, and locate the schools on the available base maps to prepare the educational sub-district-wise digital maps. Multiple sources such as digital toposheets and Google maps will be used as base maps.

The process will include detailed surveys and data analyses to determine distance between schools. In remote areas and other uncovered areas, a GPS survey will be carried out. Maithri has already done school-mapping work in Thrissur and Malappuram districts under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

Accuracy of data

K.V. Kunhikrishnan, State Project Director, SSA, said the mapping process would lay stress on accuracy of data.

“First the basic data on schools will be superimposed on available base maps. Then the actual spot will be verified by block resource coordinators and the agency's field staff to find out the distance between habitations and schools and the shortest route between the two. Geographical and other barriers, such as waterbodies and rail lines, will also be identified. The collected data and superimposed images will then be verified and consolidated to establish the veracity of the digital school maps,” he said.

Electronic data

Mr. Kunhikrishnan said that at the end of the process, the school maps would come as electronically retrievable data. “Despite the engagement of Education Department staff in works such as the Census and teachers training programmes we are planning to complete the school-mapping works within a month,” he said.

The soft and hard copies of the maps will be made available. Technical support and infrastructure of IT@School Project will be provided for the project, estimated at around Rs.9 lakh.