Special Correspondent

JAIPUR: Four years after the Union Government released a memo amending one of the sections of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) guidelines to make the panchayats the nodal agencies for education, the Congress-led Government in Rajasthan is yet to implement the amendment. This despite the claims about giving an important role in governance to the Panchayati Raj institutions. Even though the subject of primary education is under the Panchayati Raj Department in the desert State, there is no mechanism for communicating decisions related to flow of funds and expenditure in the schools to the panchayats. There are “major discrepancies” in fund allocations at various levels.

With these findings, a new study on “Delivering girls' education in India: Making panchayats responsible”, sponsored by the Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) and released here recently, has stated that educational status of girls continues to be dismal despite an increase in investment in resources for SSA. The Centre had released the memo in 2006, to give a greater role to panchayat bodies.

The study, conducted by Shruti Sharma, assistant professor at Miranda House, Delhi University, has cited the results of a survey carried out in the State reflecting a decline in the enrolment of students in Government schools, with only girls of the area and boys belonging to Dalit, tribal and poor communities going there.

“In these circumstances, it becomes all the more important to improve the quality of education provided in Government schools,” stated the study while pointing out that for retaining the newly enrolled children, it was important to make parents, teachers and different committees at panchayat and school levels more conscious about the quality of education in Government schools.

Highlighting the gaps in financial linkages between panchayats and SSA, Ms. Sharma noted in her study that both the Union and the State Governments were not releasing the funds according to the Annual Plans and budgets. The expenditure by the district education or SSA department does not match the allocated funds and varies between 62 and 90 per cent of the annual budget.

The study said the panchayats were making expenditure on education even though no funds under SSA had been transferred to them.