New Delhi, Nov. 5: Bengal’s report card on Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (programme for universalisation of elementary education) continues to be underlined in red.
According to the latest data in the Union human resources development ministry, the Bengal government has utilised only Rs 33 crore out of a total of Rs 100 crore released by the ministry last year for the programme.
The state has now come to be clubbed with the two other most “difficult” states — Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
“If these states do not step up their performance and improve facilities, the young will suffer — nothing will happen to the leaders,” says elementary education secretary S.C. Tripathi.
Uttar Pradesh utilised Rs 85 crore out of a total of Rs 397 crore released last year. Bihar spent Rs 53 crore from a total of Rs 239 crore. The Centre gives 75 per cent of the total expenditure for the programme and the states contribute the remaining 25 per cent.
The Centre this year has released Rs 1,272 crore for Uttar Pradesh, Rs 750 crore for Bengal and Rs 935 for Bihar. The performance of these states, however, continues to be desultory.
One of the hitches dogging the implementation of the programme is the states’ refusal to decentralise the scheme. “We are trying to push the states to decentralise the programme and implement it through the local panchayat organisations,” says Tripathi.
What is ironic is that the programme is not picking up even in a state like Bengal, which prides itself for having put into effect a decentralised panchayati raj. According to experts, the panchayat institutions are heavily politicised and controlled by the CPM.
Officials in Delhi say that the party must stop interfering in the functioning of the panchayats and the state government also has to give more priority to primary education.
Bengal has also come in for criticism from experts and educationists — for its policy of hiring more and more para teachers instead of full-fledged qualified teachers. But the Union government says that given the financial constraints facing the programme, state governments have no option other than hiring more and more para teachers.
Para teachers are often students who have passed Classes VIII, IX and X and teach for a smaller sum than full-fledged teachers with proper qualifications.
Educationists like Jean Dreze, a professor at the Delhi School of Economics — a co-author with Nobel laureate Amartya Sen — however maintain that there can be no compromise on teachers and para teachers cannot be a substitute for fully qualified teachers.