On January 9, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy launched the Amma Vodi scheme for mothers and guardians of school-going children from low-income families. Under the scheme, beneficiaries will receive an annual financial assistance of Rs 15,000.
During the inauguration speech, Jagan had advised beneficiaries to contribute Rs 1,000 from the Amma Vodi assistance to the school through the parentsâ committee, for paying the salaries of watchmen and cleaning staff.
Less than a month after the scheme was launched, the School Education Commissionerate has sent a circular to the headmasters/headmistresses (HM) of government schools to encourage parents to donate Rs 1,000 from the Amma Vodi assistance towards the cleaning and maintenance of washrooms, in the interest of studentsâ, particularly female studentsâ personal hygiene.
The Amma Vodi scheme is intended to support low-income families in educating their children, and increase enrolment and attendance of students. White ration card holders, whose income falls under the Below Poverty Line, are eligible for the assistance, subject to a few more criteria related to their economic status.
The move has invited criticism, particularly from a few teachersâ groups, who said that parents are being burdened by their requests and are unwilling to make the partial refund.
The circular, issued on January 26, asked the school HMs to call a parents meeting on January 30 and request parents to make annual donations of Rs 1,000 each to the parentsâ committee bank account for managing the washrooms in their schools. The funds thus collected are to be deposited to a bank account which the District Education Officer shall create at the district level, specifically for this purpose. The parentsâ committee will also be tasked with finding an âayahâ to do the cleaning work, who will be paid a salary of Rs 4,000. Every month, the DEO has been asked to make a monthly deposit of Rs 4,000 into the parentsâ committee bank account of each school, from the district-level account containing the donated funds. This amount will then be used by the HM to pay the cleaning staffâs salary.
Speaking to TNM, School Education Commissioner Vadrevu China Veerabhadrudu called the opposition to the move âirresponsibleâ, and said that the matter was unnecessarily being looked at âpoliticallyâ. Stating that the state government had no shortage of funds for education, he said that the move was a call for more involvement from parents.
âThere is a Rs 32,000 crore budget for education. We wonât need more than Rs 200 crore for school sanitation. But itâs not about the money. Itâs about creating commitment, involvement, and a sense of belongingness among parents. One mother has voluntarily donated Rs 5,000. Another mother, who has two kids in different schools, has donated Rs 500 to each school. Many parents are already keen on making donations, even before the parentsâ meeting was conducted,â he said.
Incidentally, the government recently kickstarted an infrastructure improvement programme called Nadu-Nedu. Under the programme, 15,715 schools in the state will be revamped in the first phase, by developing infrastructure such as bathrooms, cupboards and beds in hostels, and tables and chairs for students. The first phase of the Nadu-Nedu programme is estimated to cost about Rs 1,500 crore.
When asked about some parentsâ unwillingness to contribute to the funds as they are already living with very low incomes, Veerabhadrudu said that the contribution is not compulsory.
âThe Chief Minister has given a unique call for action from parents to address the issue of girl studentsâ sanitation. I am begging the mothers to think about it. They are not being forced,â he said.
Schools have also been instructed to use an amount of Rs 2,000 from the composite grants given to the school, for monthly purchase of cleaning supplies. The circular also mentions that the HM will be expected to share daily updates on the maintenance and hygiene of the washrooms. It also instructs the parentsâ committee to form a 3-member sub-committee of parents who will report to the HM and the rest of the parentsâ committee. A village secretariat employee, members of local self-help groups and students are also being asked to monitor the hygiene conditions.
Schools have been instructed to begin the initiative from February 1.