Over the years, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) has been helping the State government enrol out-of-school children and ensure that they receive quality education. Child rights activists are urging the government to reconsider the Centre’s recent move to reduce the funds for the SSA.
Chief Minister Jayalalithaa wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him not to reduce the Centre’s contribution to the SSA from 65 per cent to 50 per cent.
Letter to Modi
“The Government of Tamil Nadu has formulated various programmes for the effective implementation of the Right to Education Act keeping in mind the Centre-State sharing pattern of 65:35,” the letter, written last month, said.
Child rights groups, too, side with the Chief Minister, saying that a sudden reduction in funding will cause problems for not only Tamil Nadu, but all States.
“As it is, there is only four per cent of the GDP allocated for children, and while a majority of it goes towards education, it is still a very small amount, considering 40 per cent of the population are below 18 years of age,” Suma Ravi, regional director, CRY south, said.
While the Centre has the right to reduce the funding to the SSA, it should be done in a phased manner.
“Since the Budget allocations by the Centre and the States have taken into account a 65-35 split for the SSA funding, suddenly reducing the amount will have consequences on all aspects of primary education, from infrastructure to teacher training,” she said.
Since the SSA was the main authority for implementation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, enforcement of the Act will also take a hit.
According to Victor Raj, National Convener of the Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL), while the Centre has the power to discontinue the SSA at any time, they should not reduce the amount that was approved by Parliament.
“The SSA, however, has created a separate power centre in the Education Department, with the Special Projects Director often being more powerful than the Education Secretary,” he said.
If the Centre decides to reduce the SSA funding, it should instead make sure that the untied funds under education reach the States in due time.
“The SSA has a uniform structure throughout the country, but there are some States that require more allocation than others,” he added.
The reduction in funds should be done in a phased manner, say Child rights activists