After the ‘centralised tendering system’ to provide free uniforms to Classes I to VIII in government schools for the 2018-19 session proved to be a failure, the Punjab government is back to the old system of distributing uniforms through the School Management Committee (SMCs) for 2019-20.
Orders in this regard were issued by the state project director, Samagra Shiksha Abhiyaan Authority (Punjab), Wednesday, saying that funds for uniforms will be credited to SMCs and they have to get uniforms for students like before.
For 2019-20, a budget of Rs 76.95 crore (Rs 600 per child) has been sanctioned to provide free uniforms to 12.82 lakh students from Classes I to VIII in government schools. According to the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyaan, all girls studying in these classes and SC/ST/BPL category boys are provided free uniforms.
For the first time in 2018-19, the Punjab government had ordered for a ‘centralised tendering process’ and uniforms were supplied by a vendor picked through tendering. What followed was a disaster. Children received uniforms in March 2019, when the session was almost over. They spent entire winters without woolens and even when the uniforms arrived, complaints of poor cloth quality, improper size, bad fittings etc. had come flooding in. It was an ordeal for teachers, and the vendor was ordered to replace them. The centralised tendering orders had come in January this year, almost near the end of session.
Before that there was another experiment. In August 2018, orders were issued that a grant of Rs 600 per child will be credited directly to students under the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) and for that teachers were ordered to get ‘zero balance accounts’ of students opened in banks. It too turned into an ordeal as banks refused to open accounts of students not having Aadhar cards. The orders were later cancelled.
The orders for providing uniforms for 2019-20 issued on September 4 now say that School Management Committees (SMCs) will be arranging uniforms at local level as previously. Boys will be given shirts, trousers, turban/caps, sweaters, socks and shoes and girls will be given shirts/pants or salwar kameez, sweaters, shoes and socks.
The orders further clarify that District Education Officers (DEOs) in no manner will interfere in working of SMCs and they cannot issue any verbal/written orders to any SMC to purchase uniforms from a particular shop/vendor.
The orders also underlined that students should get uniforms as per their sizes, and that payments have to be made through cheque.
Since the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyaan has been implemented, the uniform grant has been increased from Rs 400 to 600 per child with a 60:40 contribution from central and state governments.
Mohammad Tayyab, Director General of School Education (DGSE) Punjab cum state project director, Samagra Shiksha Abhiyaan, said that the decision has been taken as centralised tendering process proved to be a bad idea. “We will transfer funds to schools as earlier,” he added. Teachers have heaved a sigh of relief now. “At least this year students will get uniforms in time for winters. Children in our schools are so poor that their parents cannot afford shoes or a sweater or cap,” said a teacher.