KOLHAPUR: The future of at least 5,700 students across the district appears uncertain with the primary education department of the zilla parishad identifying 437 schools that have less than 20 pupils each and might stop functioning from November.
Zilla parishad officials said the schools have around 5,700 students and 820 teachers - which violates the teacher-student ratio norms as laid down in the Rights to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009. The act makes it mandatory for a school to have a 30:1 student-teacher ratio. The act also states that a school should have at least 20 students, lest it could face a shutdown.
Though a zilla parishad official said the schools might stop operating from next month, the primary education department of the zilla parishad has not received any communication from the state government in connection with the possible closure of the institutes. This, in turn, might delay the transfer process of the students as well as teachers in these schools.
On the other hand, students of a school that have been shut down should be shifted to another institute situated within a periphery of 1km and complying with the RTE norms. In case of non-availability of a school within the specific periphery, the government has to arrange transportation for the students.
Sources in the education department said the 437 schools identified in the district did not comply with the RTE Act norms and should be closed for poor attendance. If that happens, it will be the department's responsibility to transfer the teachers employed with these primary schools.
State primary education department director Mahavir Mane said, "We had in September directed all chief executive officers of the zilla parishads in the state to review the students' attendance in schools in areas under their respective jurisdictions. We had sought reports on such schools. All the reports will be submitted from across the state by the end of October. Once the reports are in, those will be reviewed and scrutinized to decide on the future schools."
He added, "Schools with merely two-three students and a teacher need to be shut down. But the department will think twice before taking any drastic decision on schools in the remote areas."
A zilla parishad official said, "Ever since the RTE Act was implemented in the state, the department is constantly conducting a review of the schools to find out if those are complying with the RTE norms. The 437 schools were identified as part of the review process. However, most of these schools are located in rural and remote areas."
Kolhapur zilla parishad primary education officer Smita Gaud said the education department would exclude some of the schools from the list as these are in the remote areas. "Many schools are in Shahuwadi and Radhanagari - two talukas that are remote in nature and have less number of students. If we shut down these schools, the students will be forced to drop out midway. We will consider a periphery of 1 km within which another school has to be there before closing an institute."
The zilla parishad schools will remain closed for Diwali holidays from November 1 to 18 and the primary education department is planning the transfer and other formalities of the students and teachers, who might be affected, during this period.