Govt school students without textbooks

The School Education Department must provide textbooks to children studying in government schools in time to minimise their distress
Govt school students without textbooks
Almost half of the academic session is over, but the department is yet to provide textbooks to the students in government schools particularly the newly enrolled students.Special arrangement

Over the last two years, the School Education Department (SED) claimed to have registered around new admissions of one lakh students each year in government schools.

However it seems that the purpose of the much-hyped enrollment drive carried by the Directorate of School Education Kashmir (DSEK) has been defeated owing to the failure of the department to provide the text books to the students till date.

Almost half of the academic session is over, but the department is yet to provide textbooks to the students in government schools particularly the newly enrolled students.

The schools are facing a dearth of textbooks for students as per the enrollment of the previous year which results in the shortfall which speaks volumes about the miscalculation and mismanagement by the officers in the department.

During the enrollment, the department conducted door to door visits and motivated the parents to admit their kids in government schools. The only USP with the department was the free textbooks, free uniform and MDM for the kids in schools.

The officials of the education department and the teachers convinced the parents to discharge their kids from private schools and get them enrolled in government schools where they can get free and compulsory education up to elementary level.

It was like a short in the arm for the parents who had a huge liability of tuition fees for their kids in private schools. To avoid paying their pending dues in private schools, the parents (not all) got their kids enrolled in government schools without producing any discharge certificate from their former school. As per Right to Education (RTE) Act-2009 which became applicable in J&K from October 2019, the schools have to provide free and compulsory education to kids without asking for the discharge certificate.

While the education department claimed to have enhanced their enrolment in schools, the move also led to the closure of almost all budget schools. As per figures produced by Private Schools Association J&K (PSAJK) around 300 of schools faced closure during the pandemic period due to their financial losses.

These students were promised free textbooks and proper infrastructure but the situation on ground is contrary to the government claims. The students did not get the textbooks and proper infrastructure in schools.

The students are without textbooks because the department did not raise the requisition to meet the requirement of textbooks in schools.

Instead of providing text books for all students, the department provides text books for only 75 percent of students and schools are asked to manage the 25 percent by reusing the textbooks provided to the students previous year.

The department policy to meet the requirement of 25 percent of textbooks by reusing previous years textbooks cannot be practically implemented on ground. The school-going children do not keep the textbooks in such a condition that they can be used for two consecutive years. So, the department should submit its requisition for textbooks as per the latest enrollment in schools.

Recently, the Directorate of School Education Kashmir (DSEK) produced its latest report depicting a rosy picture of the fresh enrollment of students in the government-run schools across the Valley.

The report was compiled during the last week of April and highlighted the "increasing trend" in the student enrollment of government schools from Kindergarten to higher secondary level.

The main highlights of the report mention that there has been about 19.02 percent increase in the enrollment in government schools with new enrollment of around 118177 students including Male- 60199 and females-57977 respectively.

As per the report, the department has also enrolled around 1143 school dropouts in schools afresh besides enrolling 965 Children With Special Needs (CWSN) and 28295 students have switched from private schools to government schools.

For the past two years, the government claimed that the enrollment in government schools increased by one lakh students each year.

But on the other hand it failed to print the text books as per the requirement. This lackadaisical approach of the authorities has created a shortfall of textbooks in schools which has deflated the much hyped enrollment drive in schools.

Last year, the department acknowledged the shortfall of textbooks in the schools and asked the Chief Education Officers (CEOs) for sending requisitions for additional requirements of textbooks for the students.

The additional text books were needed as the enrollment drive in Valley resulted in the additional demand of books in addition to the figures already projected by the districts earlier.

Mostly, the newly enrolled students fall in pre-primary classes but the department delays procurement of text books for these students despite having a considerable increase in new enrolment of classes 1st to 8th for which more books are required.

As per policy in vogue, the requisition for text books is submitted to JK Board of School Education (BOSE) by the concerned Zonal Education Officers (ZEOs) after getting proper approval from the project directorate of samagra shiksha, which is the funding agency for textbooks.

But, the department submits the requisition in July month wherein the enrollment for the next academic session is assumed on the basis of the current enrollment in schools.

The enrolment details are submitted to the Project director Samagra Shiksha as per the online UDISE data which has no scope for provision for additional requirement of text books.

Under the current policy, the department does not submit the data for additional requirements of textbooks in schools to cater to the newly enrolled students in the schools.

The requisition for procurement of textbooks was submitted to JK BOSE last year before holding the enrollment drive in schools with the result the department did not procure the text books for the newly enrolled students, leaving them to fend for themselves.

To overcome the shortfall of textbooks, the schools are individually approaching JK Board authorities to print the additional text books. But, as per the policy in vogue, the requisition has to be submitted by the concerned ZEO not the individual schools. It seems that the lack of coordination has defeated the purpose of the enrollment drive because the students continue to remain deprived of textbooks despite the passage of half of the academic session.

It would detest the purpose of Right to Education if students are not provided with basic facilities, especially textbooks, in time. It would take a highly proactive approach of the authorities concerned to ensure that textbooks are published and distributed in time so that students do not suffer on this count.

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