Rural education facelift on the cards


MaaPeya Da LaaDLa
CHANDIGARH: The education scenario in rural Punjab is set for a significant, if not a revolutionary change soon. The government is planning to upgrade over 350 rural schools for which the process is already half way through.

On SAD-BJP assuming power last year, it chalked out an ambitious plan for improving the rural school education which had recorded relative decline in enrolment and quality. The system itself was in disarray - it lacked infrastructure and dearth of teachers which was compounded by rampant absenteeism, minister education Upinderjit Kaur said.

The government planned to upgrade three schools in each constituency. The requisites for the same is to have all the four streams; humanities, science (medical and non-medical) commerce and vocational. The upgradation of infrastructure involved construction of science and computer laboratories and libraries, additional classrooms, adequate staff rooms and toilet for boys and girl students. Besides, these schools would require adequate furniture, laboratory material and other supporting material which would involve huge investment.

While identifying these schools for upgradation, a conscious effort was made to ensure these schools cover a cluster of villages around them. This was done so that each village have such a school within reasonable distance.
Most of the schools identified for upgradation already had class XII. But some had only humanities while others had either non-medical or medical stream or commerce stream. Many schools have been upgraded which used to have classes upto matriculation.

To upgrade the infrastructure, government faced acute shortage of funds. NABARD came to rescue by offering 75% soft loan cum assistance. Out of Rs 141.45 crore budgeted for upgradation, Rs 112.68 came from NABARD while the state government contributed Rs 28.56 lakh.

In less than an year of getting the nod, civil work is complete in 302 schools spread across the entire state while work in other 35 schools is near completion. However, 14 schools are yet to be identified for upgradation, officials of education department said.

Upinderjit Kaur said now the process of recruitment of the teaching staff for these schools had taken priority as these schools would require a large number of lecturers, laboratory attendants and librarians. The minister hoped that all these schools would be operational with all the four streams by the next academic session. This would bring about a revolutionary change in education in rural areas which had been kept deprived of quality education all these years.

Besides these schools, the education department had resorted to rationalization of staff. This move came as urban schools were overstaffed while rural schools faced acute shortage. The rationalization itself had thrown up 4000 teachers surplus in urban areas who were in process of being transferred to rural schools, the minister informed. However, she concedes she earned wrath of the teachers who are to be moved to rural areas.