Almost half of government schools in the country don’t have any electricity or playgrounds, according to a parliamentary panel on education. It identified shortfalls in both budgetary funding and utilisation, resulting in critical infrastructure gaps.
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In its report on the 2020-2021 demand for grants for school education submitted to the Rajya Sabha last week, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development (HRD) expressed concern that budgetary allocations saw a 27% cut from proposals made by the School Education department. Despite proposals for ₹82,570 crore, only ₹59,845 crore was allocated. Noting similar 27% reductions for the Central and Centrally Sponsored Schemes as well, the panel recommended that these core schemes get additional funds at the revised estimates stage.
The panel “expressed dismay” at the stark deficits in government school infrastructure, citing the latest survey data.
Only 56% of schools have electricity, with the lowest rates in Manipur and Madhya Pradesh, where less than 20% have access to power. Less than 57% of schools have playgrounds, including less than 30% of schools in Odisha and Jammu and Kashmir, according to the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) 2017-18 survey. Almost 40% of schools did not have a boundary wall, endangering the safety of students and school property.
The panel recommended that the HRD Ministry collaborate with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) to construct boundary walls, and work with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to provide solar energy and other renewable energy sources so that schools have access to power.
The parliamentary panel also slammed the government for its “dismal” rate of progress in building classrooms, labs and libraries to strengthen government higher secondary schools. Out of 2,613 sanctioned projects for 2019-20, only three had been completed in the first nine months of the financial year, said the panel, warning that such delays would alienate students from government schools .
In government higher secondary schools, not a single additional classroom had been built by December 31, 2019, although 1,021 had been sanctioned for the financial year 2019-20. Only three laboratories had been built — one each for physics, chemistry and biology — despite sanctioned funds for 1,343 labs. Although 135 libraries and 74 art/craft/culture rooms had been sanctioned, none had been built with just three months left in the financial year.
The record is better at secondary schools, where 70-75% of such facilities had been finished by December, although less than 5% of the facilities aimed at disabled students — ramps and special toilets — had been completed. At primary schools, there was a 90-95% record of infrastructure completion.
Samagra Shiksha Scheme
Overall, for the core Samagra Shiksha Scheme, the department had only spent 71% of revised estimates by December 31, 2019.
“The committee would like to impress upon the department to look into the factors impeding the infrastructure development and resolve them at the earliest so as to ensure that the students get the best possible facilities,” said the report, recommending that the Centre replicate the model of States which have done well in creating and maintaining such facilities.
“The committee is aware of the fact that delay in completion of infrastructure not only leads to students getting alienated from the government schools but also leads to cost overruns and cause an additional strain on the financial resources of the country,” the report said.