The move, if implemented, will mostly affect the functioning of lower primary schools.

Teachers say Ktaka Mins plan to merge single-teacher schools will affect studentsImage for representation
news Education Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - 16:55

Newly appointed Primary and Secondary Education Minister N Mahesh's proposal to merge government schools in the state which are administered by single-teachers has not gone down well with teachers and academicians.

Mahesh held a review meeting of the Education Department on Monday, and following this, he revealed his intention to integrate as many as 3,450 single teacher schools in the state. “There are several schools with single teachers and very few students. In such cases, students of all classes sit in one classroom.This will cost the department both academically and financially. Merging does not mean closing down. Shifting the infrastructure to another school would be a good idea,” he said, as per The New Indian Express. , Mahesh is the lone MLA from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the state and was elected from Kollegal constituency.

The move, if implemented, will mostly affect the functioning of lower primary schools. There are 3,372 lower primary government schools and a further 78 higher primary schools that are run by a single teacher in Karnataka. The schools are also mostly located in remote, rural areas of the state according to academicians.

Even though the minister assured no schools will be shut and that they will only be ‘merged’, academicians and activists point out that merging of the schools can only happen when many of them are shut down.

Teachers working in single-teacher schools in the state explain that merging the schools will cause problems for students who have to travel away from their village for education. 

Ravi, who runs a single-teacher school in Channapatna in Ramanagara district, says, “There are two students in the school right now, and the nearest government school is 2 km away, that is if you cut across the fields in the village.”

“The roads are not in good condition and it will be difficult for the students to go on their own. Since the residents of the village are mostly involved in agriculture, it would be difficult for them to take their children to school and bring them back,” he explains.

Teachers and academicians also point out that the proposal flies in the face of a report drafted by the Kannada Development Authority (KDA) to strengthen government schools in 2017.

"The report was compiled after conversations with teachers, students, and parents, mostly from villages, and many shared interesting insights saying that closing a school in a village is akin to closing off a cultural institution," says VP Niranjan Aradhya, fellow at the Centre for Child and Law, National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, who was also part of the committee that drafted the report.

The report published in 2017 made 21 recommendations to improve education in the state – the first of which stated that closure of schools needs to be stopped and that all schools closed in the previous year need to be reopened.

The state government however says that the merging will help improve the quality of education in these schools.

“We are aware that many of the schools mentioned in the proposal are in remote, rural areas and our priority is to ensure no student is affected. The discussion that was held yesterday was regarding improving the quality of the education in the schools,” said BK Basavaraj, Director of Public Instruction Department.

Officials at the Education Department, who took part in the meeting with N Mahesh on Monday, said that the new proposal to merge single-teacher schools was yet to be discussed by the members of the department.

“The minister has given the statement about the proposal but we have not discussed the pros and cons of this yet. In yesterday’s meeting, he gave the details of the proposal to our department members and we are going through it now. We are going to decide what will be done and how we can do it,” said Philomina Lobo, Director of Public Instruction, Secondary Education. “Our priority remains that students are not inconvenienced,” she added.


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