Alleging that the quality of 27 free educational items distributed among school students by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is substandard, the NCP and the Congress slammed the civic body at a meeting held on Tuesday. Corporators of the two parties alleged that Class X students of many BMC-run schools are yet to get textbooks even as they are just a month-and-a-half away from the preliminary exams. The civic body provides 27 free items to students that includes books, bags, shoes, tiffin boxes and raincoats. The items are supposed to be distributed to the students in the beginning of the year. But there have been times when the BMC has failed to distribute it six months after the schools re-opened.
“Tiffin boxes and bags supplied in many schools this year are damaged and are of poor quality. Schools do not complain about this as they fear backlash from the education department. I personally visited some of the schools in my ward in Kurla to inspect the items supplied,” said Dr Saeeda Khan, the NCP corporator from L ward (Kurla). Khan also said the civic body is yet to send Class X textbooks to many schools, making it tough for the students and teachers complete the syllabus and revision before the prelims. “How will the students complete their studies before October because textbooks have not reached many schools,” Khan said.
Khan also carried a sample of a tiffin box supplied at a BMC school in Kurla alleging poor quality. The Congress corporator from Andheri, Meher Haider, said many BMC schools lack teachers. “We found that in many BMC schools, a single teacher conducts more than two classes. There are no substitute teachers for those who go on maternity leave. To add to this, the free items that students get as an incentive is of poor quality. With no teachers, no books and no free items, how can the dropout rate in civic schools be reduced,” Haider said.
In 2015, Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta had mooted the direct cash transfer option after the civic body repeatedly failed to provide the 27 free items before the beginning of the academic year. The proposal, however, faced a stiff opposition from the ruling Shiv Sena and was later shelved after Sena’s then coalition partner in the BMC, the BJP, opposed it. But now, some BJP corporators are in favour of direct cash transfer stating that it will compliment the Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana and Digital India initiative and help bring down corruption and delay.
A senior BMC official said: “Most students coming to BMC schools belong to below poverty line (BPL) families. Many of us, including corporators, were of the view that instead of purchasing school items, their parents might end up spending the money elsewhere.”