Even as the Maharashtra government had vehemently defended its figure for out-of-school children, claiming no more than 81,000 students were found outside schools, it contradicted its own statement on Saturday when education officers were asked to find the 4,20,000 out-of-school children in the state. The circular, issued by principal secretary of school education and sports department Nand Kumar, has now gone viral and is attracting a lot of attention, mainly because the last survey conducted by the state in 2015 showed only 81,000 children out of school with some districts showing just two-digit figures.
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Experts had then faulted the report, pointing out that the state had either under-reported the actual number of such children or had missed out on them during the survey. Despite being criticised as highly improbable, the state had stuck to the report and hence the latest whip is generating a considerable debate.
Accepting the huge discrepancy in figures, Kumar, said, “I don’t want to comment on whether the figure of 81,000 was erroneous as that was the finding of the survey carried out at that point of time. What the officers saw, they reported.
However, if one compares the data of the 2011 Census survey and the data entered into the Unified District Information System for Education (U-DISE), it shows at least 4,20,000 out-of-school children. If there is such a big discrepancy, it means there has been an error and these children need to be accounted for. Hence, we have asked for a resurvey.”
Meanwhile, since the survey will be conducted by same officers, questions are being raised on its accuracy.
“In the last survey, we had involved third party agencies as well as NGOs and volunteers. This time, we have put the onus on education officers. We have asked them to use their common sense into deducing where these children could have gone. Each officer will be free to devise their own method for tracking the students,” said Kumar.
Kumar also said that the survey would be conducted between January and February.