Free Wi-Fi? Even basic computer education in Tamil Nadu schools yet to take off
By Ram M Sundaram | Express News Service | Published: 19th May 2017 04:21 AM |
CHENNAI: At a time when School Education Minister K A Sengottaiyan has announced that government schools in Tamil Nadu will soon have free Wi-Fi, even basic computer education scheme to improve Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has remained a non-starter for nearly five years.
With no response to first three tenders, procedural lapses by the bidder in the fourth round has forced the Department of School Education to not only cancel the tender but also reduce the scale of the project.
Against the original sanction of 4,340 high and higher secondary schools, the computer education programme will now be made available only in 1,000 schools. It will be a slightly longer wait for even these institutions as the new tender evaluation committee is yet to be formed.
Apart from lukewarm response, it was learned that fund crunch had forced State to downsize the project.
The Centre in 2010 approved ‘Computer Education Plan for Schools’ in Tamil Nadu and accorded an administrative sanction to implement the ICT in schools scheme in the BOOT (build, own, operate and transfer) mode. It was decided that the Centre and State would share funds at the ratio of 75:25. Accordingly, a total outlay of Rs 213.03 crore was sanctioned for five years in 2011-12.
“In the first three tenders there was no response. Hence, for the fourth time, tender was floated in 2013. The bid offers received in the 4th tender were evaluated and scrutinised, and the three consortia were shortlisted as eligible bidders. A letter of acceptance (LoA) was issued to ‘L1’ bidder on 25.2.2014. However, since there were procedural lapses as per rule 26(2) and 26(3) of Tamil Nadu Transparency in Tenders Rules, the Director of School Education cancelled the tender on 23.3.2016,” read an official document.
Section 26 of the above said rule dealing with time taken for evaluation and extension of tender validity states that in case a contract is not completed within the stipulated time period, it can be termed illegal.
Meanwhile, the Centre integrated this scheme with Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) programme to bolster secondary education and funding pattern was changed from 75:25 to 60:40 from 2015-16.
According to documents available with Express, project approval board of RMSA had approved Rs 281.78 crore for 2016-17. As Central funds remained idle for over a year, the State has revived attempts to implement the scheme.
“Due to lukewarm response and fund crunch, the School Education Department had sanctioned Rs 20.6 crore for this academic year in only 1,000 schools and the programme will be implemented in the remaining schools in the next phase,” said government sources.