January 29, 2021 8:00:23 pm
The state education department has merged upper primary classes of nearly 1,470 government primary schools where were fewer than 20 students had enrolled, with their counterpart classes in nearby schools, and initiated steps to accommodate 1,800 teachers who have been rendered surplus in the process.
Among 1,470 schools, both Class 6 and 7 were merged in 1,280 schools, while in 190 schools, only Class 5 has been merged with nearby schools.
The plan was met with resentment initially and the education department brought down the strength in classes from an initial 25 or 30 students to 20 or below, giving an assurance that no surplus teacher would be transferred outside the district.
“There was resentment from teachers initially and they approached us through their association seeking to stall the process. But later when reasons were made clear to them, they consented. It is to benefit the students and strengthen our system,” said secretary education Vinod Rao.
Reacting to the decision, Digvijaysinh Jadeja, president of Gujarat Primary Teachers Association, said, “We had given a representation earlier to prevent merging of classes. Later when it was revised from over 25 students to 20 students and it was decided to shift students to schools within three kilometres, we did not object.”
Teachers who have been declared as surplus have been accommodated within the same district, Rao said. “In most of the cases, we have accommodated teachers within the same taluka, whereas 100 per cent teachers are accommodated within the same district,” he added.
The district with the highest number of schools with merged classes is Kutch with 180 schools.
The decision to merge classes was passed in 2013, when out of nearly 33,000 primary schools, 13,450 primary schools with strength 100 and below, and 6,826 primary schools with strength 50 and below were identified. The department had planned to merge these schools with the nearest schools.
However, it could not be implemented then due to protests from villagers, civil society, educationists as well as teachers associations citing violation of Right to Education Act that mandates every child between six and 14 years of age to have free and compulsory education.
A similar attempt was made six years later when in August 2019, the education department announced the merger of around 3,000 government primary schools with other government schools within a month in the first phase.
These were out of an estimated number of 5,100 government primary schools across the state with an enrolment of less than 100 and have a second government primary school within one-kilometre radius.
This again, could not be implemented due to opposition and protests by the opposition Congress, educationists, organisations and teachers associations, citing the right to free and compulsory education under the Right to Education (2009) Act.
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