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New Enrollment Drive in J&K Schools

New Enrollment Drive in J&K Schools

It's time to improve the education infrastructure and safeguard low-budget Private Schools
Syed Rizwan Geelani

The Jammu and Kashmir government on March 15 launched a massive enrollment campaign to enroll the school dropouts and out of school children in government schools.

The enrollment drive aims to enroll every child, including those living in remote areas, and provide them with quality education and the campaign also aims at boosting the literacy rate in J&K.

The campaign was first started for 10 days and was later extended up to March 31. Lately, it was further extended up to April 5 of 2023.

As per the official figures given out by the Directorate of School Education Kashmir (DSEK) around 50000 new admissions were registered till April 01 of this year. The figures include 11231 admission of those students who shifted from private schools to government schools while 1621 Out of School Children (OoSC) were also enrolled in the schools as well.

As per the official figures, the enrollment drive has been successful in increasing the number of students enrolled in government schools.          

While this is a commendable effort, there is a need for the government to improve the infrastructural standards of existing schools and also not force the closure of budget private schools where the parents do not clear the pending tuition fees and shift to government schools where they are entertained without obtaining discharge certificate of their previous schools.          

The move has brought drive under scrutiny as the government is allowing students from private schools to join government schools without clearing their pending dues in private schools. This move, while well-intentioned, may result in the closure of budget private schools.

Recently, the Director School Education Kashmir Tasaduq Hussain Mir said that the department will enroll students shifting from private schools irrespective of having discharge certificates.

“We have asked the private schools not to deny discharge certificates to the students for not clearing their fees. Instructions have been given to the school heads to enroll the new students irrespective of the discharge certificates,” the DSEK said.

The statement has encouraged those parents who are defaulters in low budget private schools and they shift their kids to government schools. It is also a fact that not a single student enrolled in any top notch private school has shifted to government schools but the students have moved from low budget private schools to government run institutions. These low budget private schools are unaided schools and are run by our own educated unemployed youth. But the way the government is encouraging the defaulters of these private schools will ultimately result in the losses to these schools.

So the government should at least seek discharge certificates from these students who shift from private to government schools. No doubt that the department cannot deny admission to children under the RTE Act-2009 but at the same time the Act has not given any right to the parents and the education department to force closure of these low budget unaided schools.

Last year also, the government claimed to have enrolled hundreds of students in government schools who shifted from private schools. The move has resulted in closure of these economic private schools. These private schools mostly charge Rs 300 to Rs 500 per month as tuition fees but the parents do not clear the dues and after a few years shift the students to government schools. Unfortunately the government has been supporting the trend as well.

No doubt the enrollment drive, launched by the J&K government, aims to provide better education opportunities to students across Valley but the way the government is encouraging students from private schools to join government schools, will have its repercussions.

The government's decision to allow students to transfer without clearing their pending dues in private schools has raised concerns among private school owners. Many private schools in the Valley are struggling to recover pending dues from parents, and this move by the government is likely to worsen their financial situation.

The government should understand that these budget private schools heavily rely on fees to sustain themselves and are an essential part of the education sector in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in rural areas. These schools provide education to students who cannot afford expensive private schools or travel long distances to attend government schools. With the closure of these schools, many students may be left without access to education.          

The government is well aware that these private schools faced huge financial losses during the Covid-19 pandemic which forced the government to provide compensation to these schools. The initiative was however shelved later leaving these schools in financial distress.

Now instead of encouraging these schools for their contribution in the education sector, the education department is indirectly favouring closure of these schools.

Experts suggest that the government needs to find a solution that balances the needs of private schools and students. They suggest that the government could provide financial assistance to budget private schools, waive off their pending electricity bills or taxes, or create a fund to help them recover their dues.

Now coming to the another aspect of the ongoing enrolment drive of the education department; going by the department figures, the drive seems a successful initiative till date. But if we see the ground reality, the situation is altogether different. The fact of the matter is that the department at the time of starting the drive raised slogans of free education with best facilities available in the schools. The department claimed to provide free textbooks and uniforms to the students in government schools.

But the students are yet to receive the free textbooks and free uniforms despite the commencement of the new session more than a week ago. This has exposed the ill planning of the department where they do not remain focused on all the aspects of the drive.

While the government is showcasing the figure of new admissions which has now reached around 50000, the authorities seem to be unaware about the ground situation where the new entrants are completely disappointed as they are without textbooks and uniforms.

Besides this, most of the schools which have registered new admissions are facing accommodation crunch as well which has again left a bad impression for the new entrants in these schools.

The point here is that the department should have also focused on the infrastructural up gradation of the government schools besides getting new entrants. Improving the infrastructure of schools should be a top priority for the government. This includes providing adequate facilities such as classrooms, toilets, clean drinking water, and playgrounds. The enrollment drive should not remain confined to the numbers only but the department should focus on infrastructure as well.

Improving infrastructure would not only enhance the quality of education but also attract more students to schools.

The government reports and surveys have repeatedly pointed out that the government schools lack proper accommodation, recreational facilities and are in dire need of academic reforms.

So, these reports should act as eye opener for the authorities in the department so that the schools are equipped with better infrastructure which will make these schools more attractive to the students instead of appearing as concrete monsters.

To conclude, the J&K government's enrollment drive is a commendable effort to increase the literacy rate in Jammu and Kashmir.

However, the government should also focus on improving the infrastructure of existing schools and safeguard the budget of private schools.

The government needs to find a solution that benefits all stakeholders and does not result in the closure of private schools. By doing so, the government can ensure that every child has access to quality education, regardless of their financial background. 

Courtesy: (Greater Kashmir)

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. 

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