Satish Dwivedi, Minister for Basic Education in Uttar Pradesh government speaks to Avaneesh Mishra to explain how the state is improving the infrastructure in its primary schools.
When we last talked to the Chief Minister, he said that his special focus is on increasing the enrollment of students. What is the plan for that?
We do not target for a number but our strategy is that no kid in Uttar Pradesh stays out of school. We run a separate programme for out-of-school children. At the district level, we have a coordinator to bring children to schools. Our teachers are also making special efforts; they go into the villages and inquire if there is a kid who is still not going to school. They convince parents to send their kids to schools. The result is that since the BJP government came to power the enrollment has risen from 1.30 crore to 1.80 crore.
Interestingly, a reverse trend has started. In villages, children going to private schools are now coming back to government schools. The reason is that the government schools are getting the better building, there are concrete floors, wall paintings and furniture. We have 15,000 English medium Model schools, of which 4,000 have got smart classes. The process for the next 4,000 has started. Our target is that we provide smart classes in all 15,000 schools. Even a lot of Hindi medium schools are getting smart classes through different organisations and Corporate Social Responsibility provision. For exams, there is an organisation called Room to Read that is providing libraries to government primary schools in urban areas.
Regarding better buildings and smart classes, the government had started Operation Kayakalp. What has been the response so far?
The word Kayakalp itself means bringing overall change in something. Under this, at several places, we have changed the whole face of schools. There are renovations, paintings, new walls at schools. In this, we had a huge challenge that there are more than 1.59 lakh schools and we did not have enough funds to renovate everything. We then had an idea that the panchayats get money every year for maintenance of gram sabha properties. Generally, we used to see that village pradhans were spending on new things but not on maintenance works. So we gave an order that the maintenance funds have to be invested on the renovation of schools on a priority basis. On the one hand, our schools got better and on the other, corruption in maintenance funds also stopped.
All this happens under the supervision of the panchayat department. Our department only does the audit of where there is a need for renovation. We also do cross-verification to avoid corruption. As per August 2019 data around 91,000 schools have benefited from the Operation Kayakalp.
There have been several negative news reports about the Mid-day meal scheme in Uttar Pradesh. How are we going to make things better?
If you go through the number of complaints then you will get to see that things are better in our government. Before we were in power there was a general complaint that in most of the places there is no mid-day meal at all and there was widespread corruption. Now, I can say this with confidence, there rarely will be a complaint that no mid-day meal was prepared at a particular school.
We also became very conscious of food quality. The complaints we get these days is because alertness has increased and we have made the public aware, we have permanent flying squads in the leadership of AD (basic education) and they go to check things.
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