An initiative of after-school study rooms for students of municipal schools as well as children from economically weaker sections in Mumbai has allegedly become a victim of red tape. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) set up study rooms in 140 municipal school buildings last July.
The facility, ‘Eklavya Abhyasika’ was intended for students who study under streetlights or are unable to focus in their homes and was supposed to be extended to all 450 civic school buildings in Mumbai.
But following an accident last year when, due to lack of supervision, a child started a fire injuring two other students, the study rooms were closed down. When the initiative was reintroduced months later, the school buildings it covered had been brought down to 118 owing to lack of teachers and other staff willing to supervise students post school hours.
BJP corporator Vined Shear, heading BMP education committee when the initiative was flagged off, blamed education officer Shambhavi Jogi for the initiative not taking off successfully.
“She is preventing this facility from reaching students. Following that accident, it was clear that close supervision of the children was required. But because of dearth of teachers, we thought of entering into an agreement with the NGO Sant Nirankari foundation, which was willing to offer 900 volunteers,” said Shear.
The BJP corporator alleged that Jogi turned down the NGO. “This initiative, if implemented, would give 60,000-70,000 students a safe and child-friendly environment to study,” said Shear.
The matter was brought up as a point of order by Shear in one of the standing committee meetings earlier this month and is pending discussion.
He added that since it was difficult to hire teachers, the NGO would be more pragmatic.
“We planned to enter into a proper agreement with the NGO where they would be responsible for taking care of these children and we would give them ID cards as well. But my tenure is over and the education officer is simply not willing to make this facility work in civic schools,” he said.
Responding to allegations, Jogi stated that the NGO had been refused since they were not willing to work on weekends and vacations. “The NGO was not ready to work on Saturday, Sunday and during vacations. What is the use of having them then? Besides, in areas like Mankhurd, Malvani, Govandi, Kurla and Dharavi, the study rooms need night security for female students since the areas are unsafe, which we are not able to provide,” she said.
She added that study rooms currently functional are being manned by the housekeeping staff. “We are only able to provide this facility where we have housekeeping staff. We too want to have study rooms in 450 school buildings but need the manpower. We are considering to start with the NGO until we can find another agency willing to work on all days,” she said.
Initially, the study rooms were intended to be open from 6:30am to 10am and then 2pm to 10pm.
However, in most schools, the study rooms are functional from 6pm to 10pm. According to Jogi, approximately 60-70 children come to the study rooms on a regular basis. Shear plans to make a representation about the issue to the municipal commissioner.