KOZHIKODE: If signs from the Education Department are any indication, the free uniform distribution for schoolchildren from class one to eight will be in troubled waters this year also. While the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) provides funds for the uniforms in these classes to girl students, SC/ST students and boys belonging to the BPL category, funds to aided schools are supposed to be disbursed by the department directly. As of now, no indications have been given on the list of empanelled companies, certification by government agencies or the patterns to be followed.
Teachers’ unions allege that the government forgot to allocate funds and has requested for a supplementary budget allocation. Sources in the DPI office say that only the newly joined students are likely to get uniforms this year since the uniforms for last year were released only recently. They add that the supplementary budget allocation is needed as some of the schools gave the list of additional number of children after the first list.
“Last year, only half the amount was given to the headmasters in aided schools. Of the `400 for each student, for two pairs of uniforms, including stitching charges, only `183 per student was transferred to headmasters/headmistresses,” says Sajeevan, a headmaster from Kozhikode.
Last year, the headmasters paid from their pockets and took uniforms from stores using cheques, under the promise that they would be cleared of the debt as soon as the government released funds. As many as 25 lakh children are supposed to benefit from this free uniform scheme started last year.
Eight companies, including one from the government sector, were included last year in the list of empanelled companies. The government had, at that time, given instructions to certify the materials bought from outside, by a Delhi-based organisation.
“This year, the government had issued a statement saying that the Parent Teacher Associations would be taken into confidence and uniforms could be purchased and the funds would be released by the start of the academic year, clearing the lag formed in the last academic year,” says Kerala School Teachers Association state secretary M Shajahan. He adds that apart from that directive, no other instruction was given by the department regarding this matter.
“If the cloth stores that gave us uniforms, trusting the institutions and teachers here, demand money immediately or sue the headmasters, we will be in trouble. There have been no intimations from the DDE or AEO offices so far,” says Sajeevan.
However, Kozhikode DDE Gireesh Cholayil says that the state government has allotted funds for last year’s pending aided schools that were not given half the amount for the uniforms to the DPI office. “Now, the DPI office has to reallot them to the DDEs,” says the DDE.