CHANDIGARH: In a move to improve the utilisation of teaching staff in Punjab, the state government has decided to merge 800 government schools with less than 20 students with adjoining schools situated within a kilometre of its radius.
A communiqué by the director of the Education Department (Elementary) to district education officers states that the move has to be completed within a week's time and that as many as 1600 teachers working in these schools — when the merger is complete — can be deployed at places where their services are the needed the most.
Sources said that 30 each government primary schools in SAS Nagar and Amritsar, 133 in Gurdaspur constituency represented by education minister Aruna Choudhary, 71 in Roopnagar, 140 in Hoshiarpur, 52 in Pathankot, 50 in Patiala, 54 in Jalandhar, 41 each in Kapurthala and Fatehgarh Sahib, 39 in Ludhiana, 34 in Nawanshehar (SBS Nagar), 22 in Ferozepur, 9 in Tarn Taran, 8 in Fazilka, 7 in Moga, 5 in Faridkot, 4 in Mansa, 3 each in Barnala and Bhatinda and one in Muktsar district will be merged. Forty-seven schools facing merger have a student strength of less than 5 and out of the 47, 15 schools have even less than 3 students.
In addition to the merger, an official said that education minister Aruna Chaudhary has decided to start pre-primary classes to boost the standard of government schools and the primary education infrastructure. Apart from this, special budgetary provisions have been made to strengthen the basic infrastructure of Government Primary Schools and instruction in English medium (Optional) would be imparted from Class I in 400 schools of the state.
However, the decision has not been received in a good light in certain quarters.
Balwinder Singh Bhutto, president of the Punjab Government Teachers Union, opposing the decision of the merger, said, "The government is making tall claims of saving the government education system but its decision is exactly the opposite." He continued saying, "The interest of the government to save the education in the country could be anticipated from the fact that even after a lapse of more than six months, the students are without books in government schools and in primary schools."
Leader of opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira, terming the decision as a gross discrimination, said that children of the 800 schools would now have to walk or travel many kilometres to attend school. "This is a gross violation of the RTE Act 2009, wherein a primary school should be situated within a kilometre," Khaira said. "For example, children of GPS Dere Shahpur Peera at serial no. 458 of the list, will now have to walk or travel 5 kilometres to GPS Jairampur and will have to cross six lanes of the busy NH-1 connecting Delhi-Amritsar, besides a railway crossing," he added.