Is enrolment drive by government schools enough of an initiative?

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By: Peer Mohammad Amir Qureshi

One who treads a path in search of knowledge has his path to Paradise made easy by God- Riyadh us-Saleheen

Education is the basic right of an individual, atleast in democratic setups and progressive countries. According to Islam, acquiring knowledge has been made compulsory by Almighty Allah for both men and women. Few days ago I overheard young children announcing- by word of mouth as well as by the printed banners- free admissions. It was an unusual thing since we are used to seeing posters and pamphlets of private schools advertising admissions. Here things seemed different as Government school students were chanting slogans for free admission, holding placards and were marching on roads alongwith teachers.

The initiative launched by the Department Of School Education (DSEK), to enroll more students to Government Schools is in full swing as the concerned officials are trying to rejuvenate the admission process for government schools. If there’s free admission in Government schools what desists parents to admit their wards in Government schools? Why people are paying hefty sums as fee for private schools if their wards could be admitted in Government schools for free besides providing them mid day meals and books as well?

To bridge up this trust gap between people and Government schools much more is required from the government as well as from the teachers and administrators who might have to work hard for better performances, better visibility and better facilities. Despite government’s claims of organising drives in villages and towns to increase enrolments in government run schools, the ground reality is still not that impressive as a good number of private schools are still way ahead of the government setup. Perhaps the revamp of government schools achieved by the Delhi Government under Kejriwal should be observed minutely and followed in letter and spirit in order to boost the drive here.

According to a Project Approval Board (PAB) meeting chaired by Secretary Education and Literacy in the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in June, J&K School Education department has fared poorly on retention rate at primary, upper primary and secondary-level classes.The PAB meeting “Samagra Shiksha” was convened to consider the annual work plan and budget (AWP&B) 202O-21 for Jammu and Kashmir. As per the minutes of the meeting, the total enrolment decline across calsses is nearly 1.75 lakh in 2019-20. The number of out of school children was just 19,000 in 2017-18.Besides poor enrolments, the retention rate in government schools is also low with only 60% at elementary level and 50% at secondary level.

The government schools, particularly up to elementary level, are witnessing downfall in enrolment mainly due to lack of basic facilities in the schools for which the department gets separate grants from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) every year. The MHRD has stated that the annual average dropout rate of Muslim students in Jammu and Kashmir is high at all levels (elementary and secondary). “Annual average dropout rate of Muslim students is 14.30% at primary level, 13.10% at upper primary, 23.70% at secondary level and 26% at higher-secondary level,” the official document reads.

There are also government schools across Jammu and Kashmir that have zero students. The government of India is allocating thousands of crores of rupees for the improvement of education in the country but everything is going in vain and no one is bothered about decreasing student enrolment in government schools. Apart from few, all other government schools show low or moderate academic achievement in the board exams.

It also remains a big question as to what stops government teachers to admit their wards in Government schools. The impression it gives to the masses is that something is fishy. This trend needs to end and if there are drives aimed at getting children to prefer government school against the private ones, it must also see government teachers admitting their wards into government schools as well. This will be a huge face saving for the teachers and administrators inviting children into the fold of government schools and will boost the confidence of masses to do so as well.

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