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Punjab education challenge: 50K kids out of school
Aditi Tandon/TNS

Tough going

  • 49,398 children out of school
  • 1,29,725 children with special needs bereft of inclusive education
  • 65 habitations have no primary school in neighbourhood; 57 have no upper primary school
  • For RTE compliance, state must build 261-km boundary wall;
  • Needed: 2,528 additional classrooms; 1,718 toilets & furniture for 21,156 students

New Delhi, February 16
Itís a tough challenge for Punjab on the education front. Even in this progressive state, close to 50,000 children are out of school and more than one lakh disabled in need of inclusive education. In all, there are 122 habitations with no primary or upper primary school in the neighbourhood to enable children to access free and compulsory education mandated by the Right to Education (RTE) Act.

The state needs to build 261-km boundary wall to fulfill infrastructure requirements mandated by the law, which says every school must be enclosed.

The first ever survey conducted in Punjab for the purpose of setting goals to comply with the law has whipped up several interesting details - a whopping 1,29,725 children with special needs are not getting free and compulsory elementary education in a disabled-friendly and inclusive environment and as many as 49,398 children between six and 14 years are not in school.

The findings about existing gaps in the stateís school system form part of the Annual Work Plan and Budget for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. The Punjab Government is currently negotiating with the Ministry of Human Resource Development on it. The state has sought a budget of Rs 1,643 crore to fulfill the RTE commitments under the SSA. The Act prescribes the deadline of 2013 to build the mandated infrastructure.

The work plan, which The Tribune has accessed, points out the current status of school infrastructure in the state and lists future challenges. At present, Punjab has 22,535 primary schools (Classes I to V) out of which 26 per cent (5,869 schools) fall in the category of private unrecognised.

Similarly, out of the 13,753 upper primary schools (Classes VI to VIII), 28 per cent (3962 schools) are private unrecognised.

Half of all upper primary schools are private (3,141 recognised and 3,962 unrecognised). Even at the primary level, 8,865 schools out of a total of 22,535 schools are private. To make these schools RTE compliant will be even more challenging.

Further, the mapping of requirement of neighbourhood schools revealed that the state has 15, 486 habitations where children between 6 and 14 years reside and are in need of primary or elementary education.

Out of these habitations, 65 have no primary school in the neighbourhood which the RTE defines as one km distance from where the habitation is. Similarly, 57 habitations have no upper primary school in the neighbourhood (defined as three km within the radius of the habitation).

Although the overall gross enrollment ratio (GER) is impressive for primary schools where 94.23 per cent of the targeted population is enrolled (95.32% being boys and 92.90% being girls), the GER for upper primary is low at 76.79% (79.99 % for boys and 73.05 % for girls).

A significant pointer is the dropout ratio which shows more boys than girls are dropping out at the last level of both primary and upper primary schools. Total dropout rate at primary level (class V) is 2.01% (2.13% for boys and 1.88% for girls). Total dropout rate for upper primary (at level VIII) is 1.51 (1.85% for boys and 1.18% for girls).

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