Though the Covid-19 pandemic has forced Punjab schools to shut down, the state education department continues to release grants for infrastructure development under the ‘Smart school’ project. During the Covid period, nearly Rs 141 crore was released in grants for state government schools.
According to data sourced from the education department, Rs 85 crore has been released for installation of projectors with LED in 15,671 classrooms in government schools across the state and most of these have been installed in the past couple of months. Several private donors are also donating projectors to government schools.
Under ‘Building As Learning Aid’ (BALA), around Rs 2.93 crore has been released for adorning school premises — classrooms, walls, corridors etc. — with eye-catching syllabus-related models, drawings and paintings etc. This grant has been released for 5,125 schools. A total of Rs 2.20 crore was released for 1,100 schools for setting up educational parks (Rs 20,000 per school). Teachers with the help of district and block mentors will plan for the educational parks and in case of scarcity of space in schools, combined educational parks will be set up.
“The grants are being released regularly as apart from grants for projectors, educational parks etc., amounting to Rs 51.72 crore released for 19,175 government schools, for miscellaneous works like minor repair and maintenance, sports material, internet, power bills, Teaching Learning Material, etc.,” said Punjab Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla.
Most of these grants are being released under Sarav Shiksha Anhiyan (SSA) wheren both Centre and state contribute their respective shares.
“We have covered majority government schools in the city area where projectors have been installed from primary to senior secondary level,” said Chander Shekhar, district mentor for English under ‘Padho Punjab’ project, adding that these projectors are being used for all types of e-content prepared and teachers can also display their own prepared slides.
For the primary section, animated educational documentaries are shown on these projectors to engage children in studies in fun way, he added.
Sources in the education department said that apart from these government donations, a large number of private donors have helped the department in upgrading the infrastructure in government schools and several schools in the past as well as during the pandemic.
“We have 19,175 government schools across the state and the infrastructure upgradation of these has been going on for the past three years. We want to cover each and every school as some schools need less, some more,” said a senior officer in the education department.
Though pre-primary classes had already started in Punjab around three years ago, there is a shortage of staff for handling children of such a young age. Now with the Cabinet’s nod to recruit 8,393 pre-primary teachers, education providers, EGS and AIE volunteers working for the past many years can avail this opportunity as the government has been given relaxation in age and their experience will be considered, thus reviving their hope by fulfilling their long-pending demand of regularisation of jobs. This step is considered to be a positive one under the New Education Policy.
Punjab Education Secretary Krishan Kumar said, “Like online classes, infrastructure development work is also a continuous process in government schools. We are committed to provide the best educational facilities to our children….”
“Under the midday meal scheme, Rs 55 crore was released and the Punjab government has demanded an increase in quantity of ration and funds from the Centre, due to an increase in enrollment in government schools where more than three lakh students been enrolled this year,” said E M Singla.