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Merger of Schools in Odisha: SATH Project

  • 31 Oct 2020
  • 5 min read

Why in News

The Odisha government has identified around 8,000 schools in 15 districts which will be merged with other schools due to low enrollment (less than 20 students).

  • The merger is being carried out under the NITI Aayog’s Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital in Education (SATH-E) project, and has been termed Consolidation and Rationalisation of schools.

Key Points

  • SATH-E Project:
    • Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital (SATH) focusses on two main sectors - Education and Health and to build three ‘Role Model’ States.
    • SATH-E aspires to be a ‘saathi’, to the educational system with the student and the teacher at its centre”.
      • In 2017, Odisha was among three states, along with Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, to be selected by NITI Aayog for the project.
    • The initiative aims to transform elementary and secondary school education through goal driven exercise and create role model states for education. The initiative culminates at the end of the 2020 academic year.
    • Critical interventions including school mergers, remediation program, training, monitoring teacher recruitment/rationalization, institutional reorganization at district and state level and proper utilization of Management Information System (MIS) are in execution mode since January, 2018.
      • Merger of schools is advocated to help consolidate resources such as teachers, libraries, laboratories and play equipment.
      • MIS can assist the school manager in determining the aims of the school, formulating strategic plans, distributing resources, and evaluating staff performance as well as organizational success.
    • Progress of the project is being monitored through a National Steering Group (NSG) and Central Project Monitoring Unit (CPMU) at national level and State Project Monitoring Unit (SPMU) at State level.
  • Concerns with Merger of Schools:
    • Activists have argued that closure or merger of schools is in violation of section 3 and 8 of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009.
      • Section 3 provides to every child of the age of six to fourteen years the right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school till the completion of elementary education.
      • Section 8 assigns duties to the appropriate Government to ensure that it provides free and compulsory elementary education to every child, in a neighbourhood school.
    • Majority of these schools are from tribal belts on hilly terrains. Closure of schools in a village will only increase the dropout rate as it won’t be feasible for students to travel far to attend school.
    • Parents are also concerned that if their children fail to attend school, they will also be deprived of the midday meals.
  • State Government’s Response:
    • Students who will have to travel to a distant school will be provided with a daily allowance of Rs. 20 and students from schools facing closure will also be provided a one-time facilitation allowance of Rs 3,000.
      • If the distance to school is more than 1 km, students will be provided travel allowance as per Right To Education (RTE) norms.
    • Further, the district collectors have been authorised to cancel the merger if genuine concerns arise.

Way Forward

  • The merger would make schools aspirational for students and result in improvement of Pupil-Teacher Ratio. There would be better infrastructure facilities, better academic environment with additional e-Learning and co-curricular facilities. However, geographical constraints and other hurdles should be considered before closing/merging down schools.
  • The entire process must be enabled through clear channels of communication, a rigorous grievance redressal system and thorough counseling.

Source: IE

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