Punjab: ‘Schools of Eminence’ grapple with staff crunch, operational challenges : The Tribune India

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Punjab: ‘Schools of Eminence’ grapple with staff crunch, operational challenges

Punjab: ‘Schools of Eminence’ grapple with staff crunch, operational challenges

Photo for representational purpose only. - File photo



Tribune News Service

Avneet Kaur

Jalandhar, April 17

Modelled after Delhi’s Schools of Specialised Excellence, the Punjab government launched the ‘Schools of Eminence’ (SoEs) project in the state in January of the previous year. With a focus on improving education for grades IX to XII, the initiative aimed to upgrade 117 government schools across 23 districts. Yet, despite 15 months having elapsed since the transition to SOEs, there persists uncertainty among teachers, students, and parents regarding their efficacy.

Pupil count low

A visit to one of the Schools of Eminence in Jalandhar revealed that despite the school has been converted to SoE, the students (who were studying here prior to its conversion), and the SoE students were sharing classrooms, albeit wearing different uniforms. It was discovered that due to the lower number of SoE students and staff shortage, no separate section was formed.

140 POSTS VACANT

  • A total of 140 posts, including positions for master cadre, lecturers, physical education teacher, lab assistants and vocational education staff are lying vacant in various SoEs
  • These vacancies are spread across various districts — Tarn Taran, Patiala, Gurdaspur, Phagwara, Sangrur, Hoshiarpur, Mansa, Jalandhar and Malerkotla
  • Additionally, there are 18 vacancies for class IV employees in these schools

Furthermore, a total of 140 posts, including positions for master cadre, lecturers, DPE, lab assistants, and vocational education staff are lying vacant in various SoEs. These vacancies are spread across various districts — Khadur Sahib (Tarn Taran), Mandaur (Patiala), Millerganj (Dholewal), Gurdaspur, Phagwara, Kartarpur, Bhunerheri (Patiala), Jandiala Guru Girls School, Dasuya, Dirba (Sangrur), Tanda (Hoshiarpur), Batala, Samana (Patiala), Boha (Mansa), Lambi, Bhargo Camp (Jalandhar), Nakodar, Doraha, Hargobindpur Sahib (Gurdaspur), and Malerkotla. Additionally, there are 18 vacancies for class IV employees.

According to sources within the Education Department, no major changes have been brought in a number of SoEs across the state so far, leaving principals and staff uncertain about the availability of essential facilities and the future of middle-class students in such schools.

A visit to one of the SoEs in Jalandhar revealed that despite the school has been converted to SoE, the students (who were studying here prior to its conversion to SoE), and the SoE students were sharing classrooms, albeit wearing different uniforms. Upon inquiring that why no separate sections had been allotted for the SoE students, it was discovered that due to the lower number of SoE students and staff shortage, no separate section was formed.

It was learnt that aside from SoE Adampur, the enrolment of students in other SOEs is normal in Jalandhar district. Consequently, no additional sections have been created for SoE students in these eight schools, leading to both former school students and SoE students utilising the same resources.

“Just the schools names have been changed to SOEs, rest everything is same so far. Having some students in old government school uniforms and others in blazers and tracksuits sitting in the same classroom promotes discrimination and does not foster a healthy environment for children,” said a school principal on condition of anonymity.

Education Minister Harjot Bains said that schools selected for SoEs have been categorised into three groups: A, B, and C. He explained that ‘Category A’ includes schools needing simple renovations, with 14 out of 40 already renovated and operational. Category B comprises schools requiring major redevelopment, with layout plans already ready and tenders to be allocated soon. Category C involves seven schools necessitating relocation to larger land areas and reconstruction from the ground up, which would take time.

Regarding the presence of middle schools in SoEs, Bains stated that the SoEs will only accommodate grades IX to XII, while middle school students will be shifted to other government schools, and the plan for the same is underway. Addressing staff shortages, Bains highlighted a significant improvement from 60 per cent to 93 per cent staff availability over the past two years. He said due to poll code in force, the process to fill vacant posts couldn’t be completed, but they would soon ensure 100 per cent staff availability in SoEs.

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