The grants for education department were passed on January 23 in the Legislative Assembly with support from all opposition as well as ruling party members. The education minister presented the realistic picture of the government schools on the floor of the House and urged the legislators to rise above political affiliations and contribute their but to improve the education sector.
The statement was well received by all the lawmakers with thumping desks, and gave positive gestures to the minister, which indirectly indicated that they were ready to extend their helping hand to improve the infrastructural standards in the government-run schools.
During his speech the education minister said there was a need to rise above our own political affiliations and considerations in order to engage in a constructive dialogue to improve the contours of the education sector.
The minister put forth disturbing statistics of government schools in the House and said out of 23,773 schools, 17901 are without electricity, 17167 don't have boundary walls and 17112 are without playgrounds. As per the data, 26000 toilets and lavatories in government schools are in a dilapidated condition and nearly 1000 girls schools are without toilet facilities.
Before revealing the statistics the education minister stated that the onus in making these institutions vibrant and functional was not upon the education department alone but also on the Legislators present in this House.
Before his speech on grants for education department, the minister was praised by opposition legislators for doing 'commendable job' in R&B department and pinned hopes of same contribution in the school education department. In the speeches of lawmakers, it was evident that the minister was praised for taking these MLAs on board while allocating funds for macadamisation of roads in their assembly segments.
During the discussion on grants, it perhaps happened for the first time that opposition leader and former CM Omar Abdullah spoke on the grants for education. He even admitted it in his speech as well that opposition leader participates only in grants of the department headed by CM. His participation in the discussion indicates importance and concern of the legislators for education sector.
Meanwhile, the education minister during his speech asked the legislators for their contribution towards education sector which he said can improve the overall scenario in the state.
The minister urged the MLAs to dedicate one day per week (4 days a month) to schools and also contribute Rs 1 crore out of their CDF towards up gradation of schools.
The appeal from the education minister to lawmakers, ruling as well opposition, is a sort of litmus test for the MLAs; whether they contribute their bit towards the education sector or their concern will remain confined to their speeches they gave in the House.
The education department has manpower of nearly 1.50 lakh employees and around 24000 state-run schools besides 96 government degree colleges in the state.
Majority of the schools are in a pathetic state and lack basic facilities of electricity, drinking water, toilets, ramps, playgrounds, computer-aided labs and smart classrooms.
Already depicted in official surveys and media reports students in most of the schools sit on floors in absence of benches and even in some cases take classes in open-air due to lack of school buildings. Almost 50 per cent of all government schools are in a semi-dilapidated state.
According to minister's speech one could imagine the concern of all legislators towards the education sector after he said that series of marathon constituency-wise meetings were taken in past to review the education sector and pinned hopes that the members (MLAs) by now must have framed a blueprint of their respective constituencies as the ownership of education in their areas has already been vested in them during these meetings.
The minister while speaking was not countered or interfered by any legislator present in the Hose, which apparently gave an impression that they (legislators) have agreed to own the government-run schools in their respective constituencies.
But having said this, the concern of MLAs should not fall flat as earlier they had decided to adopt one school in their constituency and upgrade its infrastructure besides developing a sense of belonging among the locals which would bring accountability among teachers and gradually improve the academic standards. But, the initiatives later, proved to be box of hollow promises made by the legislators as their concern prevailed over macadamisation of roads and construction of bridges. The concern shown by legislators towards education sector during their speeches raised expectation of the people that it would reflect on ground as well. Let good sense prevail and all MLAs rise above political affiliation to make education sector progressive.