| In Haryana, 53 per cent of girls in the 11-14 age group drop out of school. In a society still considered primitive in its treatment of women, that may seem routine but the reason behind the high drop-out rate is the lack of upper primary schools. As the first deadline for universalisation of primary education passed, 40 per cent of the eligible age group is still out of school, the drop-out rate across the country is 39 per cent, more than one lakh schools have only one teacher or none and the country is short of at least 50,000 upper primary schools which makes continuing education difficult. |
Even as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and specifically hrd Ministry under Arjun Singh discuss the possibility of making an amendment to Article 21 of the Constitution and provide constitutional guarantee of primary education for all, the first assessment of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) warns that the nation may be quite at a distance from that goal even with the revised deadline of 2007. The SSA, launched with much fanfare in 2002 with a Rs 18,000-crore budget, set 2005 as the deadline for putting 3.4 crore children in the 6-14 age group in school. It also envisaged that by 2010, every child would have received eight years of education. The Centre was to contribute 45 per cent of the money to the kitty, 30 per cent was to be borrowed from external agencies like World Bank, Department for International Development (DFID) and European Commission and the rest was to be states' contribution.
Over four hectic years, Rs 11,113 crore has been spent and only 60 per cent of the target has been met. Nearly 1.36 crore children are still out of school and shockingly, even the smaller states with relatively fewer habitations to cover have not come up to expectations while funds at the disposal of larger states have as usual resulted in scams of various sizes. The CAG finds that Rs 472 crore has been collectively lost by 14 states through irregularities like non-adjustment of advances and excess payment of contingent grants, Rs 100 crore has been diverted to non-SSA activities and textbooks worth more than Rs 100 crore have been distributed amongst non-beneficiaries. Also, the HRD Ministry has been found lax in monitoring and follow-up of funds flow. It failed to avail of reimbursement of Rs 110 crore from external agencies.
|WRITING ON THE BLACKBOARD |
WHAT THE CAG FOUND?
| 40% children (1.36 crore) in 6-14 age group still don't go to school and 31,648 habitations do not have school |
75,884 schools in the country have a single teacher and another 6,647 have no teacher at all
Rs 100 cr was diverted to activities or schemes which were not sanctioned under the drive
2,369 non-existent schools were released Rs 50 lakh in Jharkhand alone-an instance of state irregularities
Rs 100 cr worth of textbooks distributed to non-eligible children in MP, Chhattisgarh & Assam
WHAT AILS THE SSA?
43-57% shortfall of funds for the scheme which was started in 2002 with Rs 18, 000 crore
40% of the education cess never reaches HRD Ministry. States don't contribute their 25% to the kitty
Rs 35 cr was unspent balance of MP till 2004. Many states do not provide utilisation certificates
1 : 93 is the teacher-student ratio in Bihar as recruitment of teachers has remained a bottleneck
39% children drop out after the first year which speaks volumes about universalisation of education
Infrastructure is grossly insufficient. The National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA) found that nearly 5 per cent schools in the country are run from kutcha premises, 33 per cent schools do not have toilets and nearly 50,000 schools do not even have a blackboard. While both NIEPA and CAG have detected the problems, there is an urgent need to uncover why such problems occur in a well-intentioned scheme with seemingly sufficient funds.
The core of the problem might be ineffective monitoring. In four years, the SSA governing council meeting under the chairmanship of the prime minister has been held only once. Arjun Singh himself has called the executive committee meeting once. The CAG notes that this has meant even submitted reports are not analysed and acted upon. Madhya Pradesh has been found guilty of diversion of funds to other schemes-in 2002-4, it diverted Rs 15 crore into a pet scheme of the previous government called Mahila Padhna Badhna Andolan. "It was never detected because the auditing of the SSA funds was never undertaken," says an Education Department official. It is a similar story in other states as Andhra Pradesh bought colour TV sets, Haryana dustbins and Himachal Pradesh LPG connections in the name of SSA. States have also routinely underfunded the SSA. The HRD Ministry itself complains that it has not received the entire amount of education cess. "We got only Rs 3,232 crore from the Rs 5,010 crore collected as education cess in 2005. We have funded the states with our own budgetary allowance," S.K. Ray, financial adviser to HRD Ministry, told India Today. This has resulted in CAG report that notes: "The funds released for annual work were much below the amounts required which has the potential to adversely affect the overall implementation of SSA."
Apart from fund diversion, under spending and non-release of funds, the teacher-student ratio has also dented the project. The HRD Ministry sanctioned 5.96 lakh posts of teachers but only 3.29 lakh have been recruited so far. This, despite most states adopting the less-qualified temporary Shik-sha Karmi as a teacher. Most primary schools were opened in Uttar Pradesh (34,595) and consequently the highest number of teachers have been recruited there (about one lakh) but still the teacher-student ratio nationally is 1:42. In some tests (CAG does random survey in districts), districts in Bihar were found to have a ratio as high as 1:93.
Some states like Chhattisgarh which have reported a negative growth in the number of drop-outs have resorted to novel tactics. "We have started a scheme called Gyan Jyoti under which over 1,000 schools are being opened in tribal areas even if there are only 10 students," says C.K. Khaitan, secretary, Education Department. The NIEPA study says that most schools are very far from the Cluster Resource Centres, so bigger states like Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have decided to go in for a substantial increase in the density of schools. One of the methods is to involve more educational NGOs which has not been the case so far even though SSA makes a provision for it.
After the revelations, the HRD Ministry says it has decided to pull up its socks and get ready to implement another impossible deadline that promises universalisation of primary education. It has sent instructions for timely release of funds, monitoring of reports and is insisting on utilisation certificates. But wasn't that the original idea?