Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan money spent in a hurry raises schools forced to close soon
Brajesh Kumar | November 6, 2012
It might be used as location for a war-ravaged building in a Bollywood film, so ruined does the primary school in Nayakheda hamlet of Sherwa village, in Reodar block of Sirohi district, look. The five rooms are in total shambles, with plaster peeling off the damp walls, as two steel almirahs lie rusting in one of the rooms. The name of the school, writ in black, is barely visible now, with some alphabets washed away in the rains.
Only some unreadable sentences on the two front blackboards suggest the school was in operation, at least for a while.
Giving the school company are two toilet blocks on either side, each built at a cost of Rs 40,000 as part of the Centre’s total sanitation campaign. Though in a shambles, the shining white tiles used in the toilet blocks indicate they were built recently, and in between these blocks is a hand pump.
Built in early 2007, the school was closed within a year, says Varju Devi, a resident of the hamlet next to the school. “There were not enough students,” she says, even before one could ask the reason for its closure. “There were at best 20-25 students, and one teacher, till the time it operated.”
Locals say the Reodar block alone has 30 such schools built under the Centre’s Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) scheme and are lying unused — Governance Now visited five such schools in ruins.
Also read more Reports from Other India
MNREGS: Guaranteed work, really?
Nalanda’s entrepreneur who spawned a revolution
What stinks so bad in Orissa CM’s constituency?
The two halves of Abu Road block
At a conservative estimate, Rs 5 lakh was spent on each such school, with an additional Rs 1 lakh or thereof on the hand pumps and toilets. Simple arithmetic says we are then looking at a figure of Rs 1.8 crore of taxpayer’s money washed down the drain.
This, mind you, is only one of the five blocks in the district.
Why, then, would the government open schools at a place where there are no students and deliberately waste public money?
‘It’s a scam’
“It’s a scam under SSA,” says Brij Bhusan Sharma of SARAD, an NGO working in the block. “Once fund allocated under SSA reaches the district, it has to be spent and the targets met. So district officials sanction construction of school buildings in bulk without conducting any survey of the area and consulting the panchayats.”
The commission involved in constructing a school also plays a role in this flurry of sanctions. According Radhyshyam Sharma, a primary school teacher, officials of the education department earn at least Rs 1 lakh for raising each school building.
A senior government official admits that such schools should not have been sanctioned in the first place under SSA.
Unfolded in 2001, SSA, the Centre’s flagship elementary education programme aimed at providing universal primary education to children between 6 and 14 years, there should be a primary school within a radius of 1 km, or a population of 300 people. But the school in Nayakheda had only 10 families to cater to.
Besides, a better-administered primary school already existed in Sherwa village, about 1.5 km from Nayakheda, at the time.
Not surprisingly, another school in Khadia hamlet, under Mithan village, catering to four families, is also closed for the last two years.
The Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research’s report on SSA for 2008-11 offers some clue on the haste shown by government officials in sanctioning school buildings, offering insight into the last-minute rush to spend funds in a bid to meet annual targets.
According to the report, only 37 percent of SSA’s expenditure was incurred in the first two quarters of 2008-09 fiscal, which means the remaining 68 percent was spent — mostly in a hurry — in the last two quarters. Rajasthan, along with Maharashtra, spent less than 30 percent in the first two quarters, and more than 70 percent between October 2008 and March 2009.
“If more than 70 percent of the fund has to be spent in the last few months of the financial year, such haste in sanctioning schools without proper consultation is not surprising at all,” says a senior government official at district headquarters Sirohi.
Leaving the deserted primary school in Nayakheda, one finds the slogan of SSA painted on one of its walls: ‘Sarva Siksha Abhiya — Sab padhe, Sab badhe’, or education for all, progress for all.
While it’s not certain whether the scheme is enabling education for all, it certainly has led to progress at least for some.
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has instructed the Mumbai civic authorities to take immediate action on unauthorized constructions on war footing. In a virtual meeting held on Wednesday, Thackeray said no illegal construction will be tolerated in Mumbai and called upon the BMC to
After extending timings of shops and restaurants as well as the reopening of cinema halls and theatres under specified SOPs from October 22, in view of the festive cheer, the Maharashtra government has allowed restaurants and eateries to remain open till 12AM and shops and establishments to function till 1
Rubbishing the recently released Global Hunger Index 2021, wherein India has slipped to 101 position to be placed below Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, Arvind Panagariya, professor of economics at Columbia University and former vice chairman, NITI Aayog, has said that data collection and methodologies used
A long life span free from diseases and disability, the so-called healthy aging, has been a matter of prime interest to humanity. It is widely held that the life expectancy is a function of interplay between various genetic and environmental factors. There is scientific evidence to support the fact that on
Defence minister Rajnath Singh’s statement, that Mahatma Gandhi had asked V.D. Savarkar to file a mercy petition before the British, has ignited a debate. Vikram Sampath, a historian and author of a recent biography of Savarkar, says two weeks after Jawaharlal Nehru was lodged in Nabha jail, his
The launch of the Gati Shakti master plan will be a booster dose for India growth story. The plan, as the name indicates, will ensure Gati, i.e., speed and Shakti, i.e., empowerment to the ₹1 trillion national infrastructure pipeline. The plan will break inter-ministerial silos. For examp