Andhra Pradesh

Makeover on a mission mode

The ‘Mana Badi Nadu-Nedu’, a unique project to give a boost to school infrastructure, is born out of a firm belief of Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy that education is the only solution to ward off poverty and it can also play an equaliser in the society.

This transformational programme prioritises school infrastructure to attract maximum students and improve learning outcomes in 44,512 government schools in phases over three years by giving them a makeover on a mission mode.

The most impressive feature is that contractors have been kept at bay to prevent corruption and instead, parents have been co-opted as the key stakeholders with a big say in where and how the money is spent. The Parents’ Committees hold weekly meetings to take collective decisions on the procurement of raw materials such as cement, sand, fans, sanitary ware, furniture, paintings and on the release of payments in the presence of the school headmaster, the field engineers and others. The Principal Secretary, School Education, reviews the progress of the works every week.

Students are clearly in for a pleasant surprise on August 16 when the schools will welcome them into the brightly painted new buildings with well-ventilated classrooms, clean toilets with running water facility, safe drinking water and clean and green surroundings. It would not be an overstatement to say that the government schools now look better than the best of their counterparts in the private sector.

Infrastructure is crucial to create the right environment for effective instruction in classrooms. There is strong evidence that good infrastructure and better teaching improve learning outcomes and reduce dropout rates.

“With commitment, transparency and accountability as the cornerstones, we did not give any scope for corruption by putting in place a new system by making the parents the stakeholders,” says Education Minister Adimulapu Suresh, explaining how a revolving fund was created with one of the parents appointed as its chairperson and the school headmaster as the convenor.

“All works are executed by these committees,” he says, adding that material worth nearly ₹1,100 crore was procured through reverse tendering, which helped the government save ₹245 crore of public money.

Admitting delay in the procurement of material due to the coronavirus pandemic, he appreciated the role of headmasters and staff who visited their schools even during the lockdown to help complete the works. The first phase of the works taken up under the project will be completed by August 15 and the second phase will be launched on August 16, coinciding with the reopening of schools.

Telangana takes a cue

Impressed by the Andhra Pradesh model, the Telangana government has decided to replicate the same and sought permission from its A.P. counterpart for using the end-to-end encrypted software developed by the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to implement the school revamp project to which the A.P. government has responded positively.

Even as there is unanimity over the efficacy of the project, a few downsides are cited as ‘can-be-avoided’ features.

“Each classroom has six fans. The headmaster of a school in Pileru in Chittoor district told me that the monthly electricity bill could touch ₹15,000,” says Vitapu Balasubramanyam, Member of the Legislative Council from Chittoor, Nellore and Prakasam constituencies and the PDF Floor leader in the Council.

Major challenges

“Where are the funds to pay such huge bills?” he asks. Citing that expensive material are being used in the washrooms and toilets, he says maintenance would be a challenge. “Also, these schools now have a lot of costly material, but no watchmen to protect them,” he points out.

On the one hand, he says, the government is talking about the merger of primary classes with the high schools and on the other, it is spending huge money on their refurbishment. “One big primary school with all facilities should be established in each panchayat,” suggests Mr. Balasubramanyam.

Deputy Floor leader in the Council K.S. Lakshmana Rao points to the increase in strength of students in government schools and says no additional classrooms have been constructed. “Given the number of classrooms, it may be difficult to accommodate all the students,” he says.

P. Panduranga Varaprasada Rao, general secretary of Andhra Pradesh Teachers’ Federation, feels that the ‘extravagant’ school authorities should utilise the funds judiciously and think of recruiting teachers to the thousands of posts that have been lying vacant.

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Printable version | Sep 28, 2021 7:19:41 PM |

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