The State government will close 22 Moulana Azad Model Schools, which have fewer than 150 students, in the State, owing to poor maintenance and a lack of infrastructure, and the Finance Department has also given the green signal to this.
The Minority Welfare Department in September ordered that nine schools, with fewer than 100 students, and 13, with 100 to 150 students, should be closed. The Department’s Deputy Secretary, Mahibabu Saba, also said in the order that students should be shifted to the nearby schools or relocated to other places.
The government started 200 Moulana Azad Model Schools in the academic year 2017-18 and 2018-19 under the Directorate of Minorities across Karnataka. A total strength of 200 students had been sanctioned for each school, and currently 39,000 (65%) students are enrolled.
These schools are English medium and teach from Classes VI to X. The Minority Welfare Department is providing free uniforms, books, notebooks, stationeries, shoes, and socks.
However, the Department distributed only single sets of uniforms for Class VI students last year. For two years, the Department had not distributed any uniforms, notebooks, and other items.
Teachers said they are suffering from the lack of infrastructure. “In some places, the department is running the schools in its own building. But in other places, they are being run in dilapidated old government school buildings and on rented premises. Some schools are being run in tin sheds and most of them don’t have separate toilets for boys and girls. The older girls are hesitating to come to school,” said a teacher.
Poor maintenance of toilets, a lack of drinking water and playgrounds are also being deemed as factors contributing to poor enrolment.
The government had sanctioned only 700 staff, including 100 headmasters and 600 associate teachers, for only 100 schools. The remaining 100 schools are fully in the charge of guest teachers and other school staff of the department.
The Finance Department recently gave permission to recruit Hindi teachers, Physical Education teachers, and group ‘D’ posts on outsourcing basis for only 60 schools, which have the highest enrolment.
Meanwhile, former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah slammed the closure of the schools. “The BJP’s agenda is that children of the working class and the poor should not get education. This agenda, which was previously hidden, is being openly celebrated now. The Minority Welfare Department portfolio is held by the Chief Minister. The Maulana Azad Model Schools were opened for the upliftment of minority community students. However, students are not enrolling in large numbers because the government has neglected to emphasise on the proper facilities,” he said.
“These children have not been given uniforms for the last two years and this is a betrayal by the Chief Minister, who also holds the Finance portfolio. There are thousands of schools with three to 15 students under the Department of School Education and Literacy, which the government continues to run. It is inexcusable to close minority schools with at least 100 students in such a situation. The government should immediately reverse its decision,” Mr. Siddaramaiah demanded.