Village community to be fully involved in `Education for All'

CHENNAI Nov. 9. Village committees, which play a major role in implementing the Education for All (EFA) programme in Tamil Nadu, should be convened every month and the minutes maintained systematically. The block level officers— Assistant Education Officers (AEOs)— will be part of the supervising system to ensure that such meetings are held regularly.

The Education Minister, M. Thambi Durai, gave this direction to the implementing authorities during a review of the EFA (Sarva Siksha Abhiyan) progress two days ago.

The EFA aims at ensuring 100 per cent enrolment in schools and retaining children up to class VIII by 2010. In 2001-2002, the Centre provided 85 per cent of first year's funds.

The State Government, which has a major role in the implementation of the EFA provides the rest. In the Tenth Plan period (2002-2007), the Centre will provide Rs.1236.75 crores and the State about Rs.412.25 crores (in the ratio of 75:25).

The meeting discussed the major role, which the village education committee (VEC), headed by the elected panchayat president and including the primary school headmaster, local leaders and representatives of non-governmental organisations.

The Centre's main strategy is to involve the local community fully, especially in creating an awareness of compulsory primary education and improving schools.

The VECs get direct funding for these components.

Mr.Thambi Durai told the meeting that the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, had instructed the department officials to ensure that community involvement in EFR implementation was total, so that the funds were spent carefully and the full benefits reached the children.

In turn, it would lead to Tamil Nadu turning a pioneer State in achieving the EFA objective.

The VECs' full involvement would "lead to better accountability".

Local audit

To strengthen this concept, the VECs would be subjected to local auditing (for checking all vouchers and papers). The AEOs would ensure that the minute books and local accounts were maintained as per guidelines.

The Minister later told The Hindu that Rs.3.30 crores had been sanctioned for training the VEC members in administration and development of the village schools. The training sessions would begin soon. The Government wanted to ask the AEOs to shift their offices to the block resource centres (BRCs), nodal point for EFA at panchayat union level.

Schools upgradation

At the review, officials noted that of the total of Rs.60 crores received from the Centre for the first two years, nearly Rs.58.62 crores had been distributed among districts. Last year 452 primary schools were started and 904 officers appointed. This year 197 primary schools were upgraded middle schools. For the current financial year, more than 670 schools had been sanctioned, and work on about 300 schools already started. Another 479 schools were to be upgraded middle schools, with an increase in the number of teachers required for the elevated institutions.

In 306 blocks, the BRCs had started functioning, at least temporarily, in higher secondary schools and the BRC recruits were undergoing a "school attachment programme" (to familiarise themselves with the functioning and administration of the institutions). The officials informed the Minister of the on-going works to construct classrooms and provide toilets and drinking water in the institutions and in the BRCs. They also explained the special focal areas of the EFA, to "reach the as yet unreached" such as children with disabilities and Scheduled Caste/Tribe children in remote areas.

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