By Hrishikesh Angom
IMPHAL, Oct 20: It is an undeniable fact that private schools render good quality education to majority of the students in the state, but many of the private schools in both hill and valley areas lack proper infrastructural setups even without fulfilling the minimum standards that an educational institute should have.
There are about 600 government recognized private schools in the state out of which 475 schools are in the valley region and the rest in the hill areas of the state. Besides these recognized schools there are also many unrecognized private schools in both valley and hill regions.
With regard to the regulation of private schools in the state, a committee headed by former secretary of BSEM and COHSEM, N. Kunjamohan Singh, was set up by the Department of Education (S), Government of Manipur, in April 2009. The members of the committee included secretaries of BSEM and COHSEM, secretary of All Manipur Recognized Private Schools’ Welfare Association and other noted educationists.
As per the report of the committee submitted to the Department of Education (S) earlier in May this year, it was observed that many of the private schools do not have even the minimum area of land prescribed by the concerned authority as a precondition for granting recognition.
The buildings of some schools are in a very bad shape. The walls and partitions of the rooms are made of thin bamboo chattai because of which the sound/noise in one room disturbs the teaching in adjacent rooms seriously. The structures of the building appear very weak as a result of which some buildings were grounded during cyclone. Even in the case of a pucca multi-storeyed building the CGI sheet roofing of some rooms on the top floor were blown away along with the wooden frames in the stormy night. Had these occurred during class hours there would have been a disaster causing serious injuries and even death, the report mentioned.
It has also been found that some of the pucca school buildings, old and new, having three or four storeys do not have proper and adequate stair case. It is afraid at that time of any emergency, natural or otherwise, there may be stampede causing heavy casualties. Some of such buildings do not have proper windows and ventilations. No fire-fighting equipments are found installed in most of these schools.
The committee also found that enrolment strength in some schools has been found much below the minimum prescribed in this respect by the concerned authority. Thus such schools have little meaning of their existence. On the other hand, there are some schools where there has been overcrowding of students. Some of these schools have 1500-2000 students with four or five sections in a class leading to deterioration in teaching quality, undue relaxation in the enforcement of discipline, failure in providing basic sanitary requirements of the pupils etc. It has been found that in a section of a class some 60/70 students are found packed in small rooms.
It was also found out that many new schools have sprung up like mushrooms, without any consideration of the needs of the locality around already existing schools. Such mushroom growth has caused not only difficult in survival of the schools but also has deprived many of the unfortunate students the desired quality of instruction.
There are some schools existing only in name. Their physical existence is difficult to trace confirming that they do not physically run any class. Curiously enough these schools are found, as per record of the Board of Secondary of Education, Manipur, sending up candidates for the public examinations conducted by the said board, the report said.
Some of the private schools run hostels of their own. But most of such hostels are found to be very much congested barrack type halls/rooms easily prone to viral and infectious diseases. Besides in case of sudden break out of fire, heavy casualties may be inflicted, causing even loss of lives.
Only a few schools have library and that too only in name, with some text books, journals, local papers kept in an almirah. There is hardly any reading room and no reading habit is inculcated among the students as such.
The committee has also made certain recommendation for the augmentation and proper functioning of private schools in the state.
As per the recommendations of the committee, the permission for opening of a new school should be considered according to the genuine needs of the area while keeping in view the promotion of healthy competition among the schools to ensure quality education.
Recognition of the schools which are in existence only in name should be withdrawn forthwith. Schools which are found to have shifted from their original location without prior permission/approval of the concerned authority should also be derecognized and should not be allowed to function without applying afresh to the competent authority.
To facilitate proper control and better regulation of the private schools, it should be made obligatory for each school to furnish periodically to the district education offices all information as may be required by the Department of School Education from time to time.
The government should appreciate and encourage the schools and teachers whose performance is found outstanding, with awards, financial assistance or otherwise.
The existing team of officials in the School Education Department for monitoring the functioning of the schools in the state should be sensitized to the existing problems in the educational development in the state. They should be duly instructed to carry out prescribed minimum number of inspections in all the schools entrusted to their authority and furnish a detailed report of their findings and recommendations to the superior authority regularly.
Periodic review of all inspection reports should be conducted so as to take up rectification process within a prescribed period.
Schools which could not function in accordance with the guidelines and directions of the concerned authority of the state should be de-recognized at the earliest and granting of re-recognition to such school should be considered only after a period of two years from the date of de-recognition.
Schools and hostels buildings should conform to the National Building Code of India, 2005. Some arrangements should be worked out between the State Education Department and the technical departments of the state such as PWD, PHED, Electricity Department etc. to carry out periodic checking by their technical team in all private schools existing within their respective jurisdictions of the district level officials. Anything required to be done to ensure the safety of the school and its occupants should be immediately reported by these technical inspectors to both the concerned Management Committee as well as to the concerned authority of the School Education Department for necessary compliance within the shortest possible time which should, preferably, be within one week.
Necessary steps such as coordination meeting, calling for periodic reports, joint meeting under the supervision of the District Education offices etc. should be taken to ensure active cooperation and interaction among the parents-teachers association of a school, the school management committee and the district or sub-divisional level educational establishment of the state to sort out any problem arising in the running of the school and the welfare of both the teachers and the taught.
The amount of salary for each category of posts in a private school should not be less than the basic pay of the corresponding position in government schools. EPF and other welfare schemes/measures pertaining to service conditions of the employees should be introduced.
A school should have invariably a library and a reading room. The library should have not only textbooks but also a good number of reference and general reading books, journals, newspapers etc. and it should be operational.
The recommendations of the committee are yet to be materialized by the concerned authority for a better and effective education system in the state. The education system of the state is expected to be developed fully to render good quality education after the recommendations of the committee are implemented for the regulation of private schools in the state.
Speaking to IFP, the general secretry of All Manipur Recognized Private Schoolsâ€™ Welfare Association, Kh. Japan stated that the recommendations of the committee are indeed good for the future of education in the state. However, the education department should allow the augmentation of already recognized private schools by giving more time as against the short duration of time mentioned in the committeeâ€™s recommendation.
In due course of time there will be a visible change in the education scenario of the state. The mushrooming of private schools will also be checked thereby leading to good quality education in the state.