If the teachers have to go by the partial funds released on Wednesday for providing uniforms to students from classes 1 to 8 in government and NCLP (National Child Labor Project) schools under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA), then they will have to buy a sweater, cap, shoes, shirt/trouser (for boys) and salwar-kameez (for girls) for just Rs 100 per student.
The budget for the scheme is Rs 65.85 crore for almost 16.45 lakh students. This translates to roughly Rs 400 per student. With winter already having set in, only 25 per cent of the SSA budget for winter uniforms have been released.
“Uniform grants were always late since the last few years. Although Rs 400 was insufficient to buy proper uniform, we had manage to pull through every year with the help of donations. This year, the government has played a cruel joke. They are expecting us to buy uniforms with Rs 100. Which supplier will give you uniforms for Rs 100?” said a school principal from Ludhiana.
Not only is the sum insufficient but it has come five months late. As per rules, students should have received their uniforms by July. Even now, a few schools are yet to get the funds released.
A letter issued in this regard by the office of Director General School Education (DGSE) Punjab (a copy of which is with The Indian Express) says that ‘25% of grant is being released for providing uniforms to the school children in government and NCLP schools.’
The students who will be provided free uniforms include 8.72 lakh girls (all), 6.16 lakh boys from SC/ST category and 1.57 lakh boys from BPL (Below Poverty Line) families.
“The kids who study in our schools are so poor that they do not have slippers to wear. They come barefoot. We pool in and get them shoes. If we keep waiting for uniform funds, then they will not get shoes for whole session,” another school principal said.
This year, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley cut the budget for flagship Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan from Rs 28,000 crore in 2014-’15 to Rs 22,000 crore in 2015-16.
When contacted, Pardeep Aggarwal, DGSE Punjab said, “There are no separate funds for uniforms and they are issued out of total funds that come for SSA. Whatever funds were available with us have been released and the rest, that is 75%, will be released soon.”
While education minister Daljeet Singh Cheema was not available for comment, his spokesperson said, “We will ensure that rest of the money is released at the earliest.”
Sources said that a proposal to increase the purse to buy uniforms to Rs 1,000 per student failed to get the nod from higher authorities.
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