Kolhapur civic body faces uphill task to improve school infrastructure

KOLHAPUR: With the civic body deciding to develop seven of its 61 ailing schools through private entities, it now faces a tough task to improve the quality of education provided to the students belonging to economically weaker sections.

The proposal to develop these schools was approved two months ago even as there were delays in the acceptance of the policy since the last three years.

The Kolhapur Municipal Corporation (KMC) took the decision after it failed to restart these schools through its own funds.

Besides funds worth Rs 28 crore sanctioned through the budgets for the salaries and maintenance, the school board gets additional grant of just Rs 25 lakh every year to undertake miscellaneous works such as colouring the buildings and construction of compound walls.

As per the new policy, the private parties need to repair these defunct schools and operate them for 20 years. To ensure that poor students get admissions, the private entities will have to reserve 25% seats for those residing in the periphery of the schools.

Mahesh Jadhav, NCP corporator and chairman of the school board, said, “The finalisation of the proposal to rent out schools to private organisations is a historical decision. The initiative will help us provide quality education to poor students as well as help us rake in revenue from the premium charged for using the building structure and the open spaces near it. The funds generated will be utilised to strengthen the schools governed directly by the KMC.”

There was tremendous disappointment among the teachers, parents and students during the first three years of the Congress-NCP regime, as senior civic authorities or corporators hardly paid attention to their demands.

However, genuine efforts by the officials and teachers in the last two years have helped increase the student count from 8,000 to 10,400 in the KMC-run schools. Moreover, 150 more students will also join these schools soon.

The leaders claimed that they spent around Rs 84 lakh for strengthening the school infrastructure. However, the initiatives such as e-learning are yet to be operational in each of these 54 schools.

The district planning and development council (DPDC) had sanctioned Rs 34 lakhs to install projectors with a computer and internet facility in these schools.

However, the contractor assigned for the work failed to supply the equipment on time and the council had to withdraw the funds.

There were allegations that the corporators forced the officials to accept the tender of an incompetent contractor for the work, which deprived the students of modern learning methods.

Meanwhile, experts believe that the KMC and the government should infuse funds in these schools to make them as good as the private ones. Since the last few decades, these schools have remained an avenue for poor students, who cannot afford the fees of private schools.

Education expert Sudhakar Sawant said, “The teachers have to plead several times to the civic authorities and corporators for particular facilities needed for schools. No full-time administrative officer has been appointed despite being mandatory for the civic bodies. This has led to trust deficit between the teachers and the civic administration. The KMC needs to take special efforts to address sanitation concerns in these schools to make them student and teacher-friendly.”

While welcoming the decision to develop seven schools, Sawant gave a word of caution considering the lethargy of the officials in implementing policies. “There’s no doubt that the private parties developing these schools will help deliver modern techniques of schooling. However, the initiative will fail to provide affordable education to poor students. Moreover, after these schools are transferred back to the KMC, the doubts over effective management may come to the fore considering the financial position of the civic body,” he added.

* Schools till 4th grade: 6

* Schools till 7th grade: 47

* Urdu medium school: 1

* Senior college: 1

* No. of students: 10,400

* No. of teachers: 320

PPP mode of developing schools:

* Private institutions can develop schools, provide education through skilled teachers and adopt modern methods

* Institutions have to pay yearly premium for using school building and open spaces

* 25% admissions reserved for students residing near schools

* Operate school for 20 years and transfer back to the KMC

Schools to be developed through PPP mode:

*Annabhau Sathe Vidyalay (Rajarampuri)

*Rangrao Salunkhe Vidyalay (Susar Baug)

*Maharani Tarabai Vidyalay (Mangalwar Peth)

*Girl’s School No. 5 (Shahupuri),

*Padmaraje Vidyalay Girls’ High school

*Padmaraje Vidyalay Boys’ High school

*Nehru Girls High school

Current regime and its impact:

* Increase in students count

* Dropout rate brought to zero

* Workshop for teachers to improve teaching skills

* Eight-day residential camp for 200 students every year for personality development

* Regular health check-up of girls and boys