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Study funds in pull & push

New Delhi, April 10: State education ministers today told Arjun Singh they were not willing to bear any additional cost for the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan.

At a national seminar, the state representatives told the HRD minister that the Centre should not reduce its share of funds for the elementary education programme despite pressure from the Planning Commission.

At present, the Centre provides 75 per cent of the funds and the states 25 per cent.

The 11th five-year plan, to be endorsed by the Planning Commission, wants to restructure the funding pattern with the Centre and the states sharing the cost equally.

The issue was discussed at length at today’s meeting. All the education ministers unanimously said a slash in the Centre’s funding will derail the programme that has been successful in increasing enrolment levels.

The Centre claims an enrolment of over 93 per cent.

Under pressure from the education ministers, Arjun told the meeting that he would put their viewpoint before the Planning Commission at the next meeting.

Bengal elementary education minister Partha De said: “We have several new projects on the anvil. But none of them will materialise if we have to give more money.”

It is not just the cash-starved states like Bihar or Orissa which are complaining — even states like Gujarat and Maharashtra are not in favour of increasing their share.

One of the main concerns before the policymakers at the Centre and in the states is the persisting low levels of learning. Improving this would mean hiring qualified teachers instead of para-teachers. The states said the Centre has to continue with its share of 75 per cent to plug loopholes in the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan.

For instance, one of the drawbacks keeping girl students out of schools is the absence of toilets. The education ministers said all this would require money but the governments are facing a cash crunch.

The Sarva Siksha Abhiyan ends in 2010 and the HRD ministry is gearing up for its second phase.

“We are still quite some distance away from the goal of every child completing 8 years of good-quality education despite various achievements and increased financial outlays,” the HRD minister said.

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