TIRUCHY: How does one perform salt analysis in the school lab if the quality of the sample is dodgy? That is the question uppermost in the minds of students and teachers alike in government schools that are funded by Rashtriya Madhyamika Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA).
Headmasters and chemistry teachers also claim that equipment obtained from RMSA’s annual grant do not last long. RMSA offers Rs 50,000 to high schools each academic year to upgrade laboratory equipment and for periodicals and books. The remaining funds can be used for the school’s miscellaneous expenses for the rest of the year.
Out of the total fund, Rs 25,000 is used exclusively to purchase laboratory equipment, Rs 7,500 for library books and Rs 2,500 for newspaper and journal subscriptions. The Rs 15,000 left over can be utilised for development activities and monthly expenses, such as electricity, water and Internet bills and repairs of electronic items.
Tamil Nadu has around 3,000 government high schools and 600 government-aided schools eligible for the funding. Students state the chemicals provided in the chemistry lab are of poor quality. A student who did not wish to be named, said: “Starch mixed with iodine must give a vibrant blue colour, but it does not happen in our school. The iodine available in our lab does not change colour during experiments.” She added equipment provided to her laboratory are fragile and have to be handled with care, else they could break.
A government school headmaster said no one has raised these issues before a wider audience as there is a fear the funding could be stopped.
“I was asked to get a demand draft of Rs 25,000 by the person-in-charge after unloading laboratory materials,” he said. He added he and other headmasters have taken up the issue with senior School Education department officials, but to no avail. Moreover, because of the complaints, they have faced threats from political quarters.
Some headmasters have outright rejected the items supplied in favour of purchases from shops. A headmaster said because of substandard materials, the quality of education is hit as class X is considered the baseline for higher education.
An RMSA official said school heads were asked to buy materials on their own two years ago. “Some unknown people masquerading as officials appear in schools to take orders for materials. We are instructing headmasters to avoid middlemen,” the official said.
A senior School Education department official told Express CEOs have been informed to keep vigil on such instances. “HMs must be aware and purchase materials on their own as each school has a School Management and Development Committee to make decisions.” If a person is found to be involved in malpractices, he/she would get into trouble, he said.