Two schools withdraw from merit scheme for Dalits

Madurai July 3. The Tamil Nadu Government is in a fix as two of the four `elite' higher secondary schools, `identified' for the implementation of the Centre's ambitious `Merit Upgradation Scheme' for Dalit and tribal students, have pulled out.

This has dealt a blow to the government decision to revive the scheme, meant for students of the deprived class, studying in classes IX-XII. The scheme, which was in operation since 987,

was shelved in 1993 by the State Government.

Tamil Nadu spends 70 per cent of the Adi Dravidar Welfare Department funds on education.

But it has failed to evince interest in this hundred per cent Centrally-sponsored scheme, whereas Madhya Pradesh has utilised it to the maximum. With the intention of reviving it, the State Government had identified four `elite' schools at Kancheepuram, Theni, Coimbatore and Tiruchi.

When the Government was about to finalise admissions, the Coimbatore and Tiruchi schools intimated their unwillingness to implement the scheme.

About 53 per cent of the Dalits in the State are still illiterate. Under the scheme, the entry point is class IX. A student can also be enrolled in X and XI, if he or she has an outstanding track record.

The Centre would spend a packaged grant of Rs.15,000 per student per annum, of this Rs.7,000 would be given to the school as honorarium to the principal, teachers, experts and towards other incidental charges.

The States are allowed to choose `elite' schools in different districts and towns on the basis of the illiterate population of Dalits and tribals. The schools should have the necessary facilities for all-round development of students.

The services of teachers from neighbouring schools and professional institutions can also be made use of.

The scheme aims at enhancing the capabilities of students with a disadvantageous environment. According to the Centre, the students' educational deficiencies are forcing them to forego advantages such as relaxed eligibility conditions. At least, 30 per cent of the beneficiaries in each State should be girls and three per cent disabled.

The total coverage is 1,025 students per year. Each State can have a minimum of five students.

A total of 1,000 students, including 670 Dalits, are being covered in the country.

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