Guwahati, June 11: Dispur has started exploring possibilities of setting up model schools in the public-private partnership mode after the Centre stopped funding for the project in Assam.
Sources in the state education department told The Telegraph that though the Centre's recent decision to delink the model school project from its financial assistance is a major setback for Assam, the Tarun Gogoi government is not in favour of discontinuing the project midway and that too, a year before the Assembly polls.
Gogoi, in a letter to the human resource development minister Smriti Irani on Monday, flayed the Centre for its decision to stop funding for the project. He said this has left an important scheme in the lurch. The chief minister mentioned that the operational cost of a model school is around Rs 1.17 crore annually and for maintaining 81 such schools in Assam, the financial implication would be around Rs 94.77 crore annually. He said it would be difficult for the state government alone to bear the cost without support from the Centre.
Gogoi, however, reiterated his government's commitment to run the schools to enable thousands of rural students get their right to quality education.
"Under these circumstances, the state government will now have to explore other sources of funding to continue the project. Gogoi is not averse to the idea of involving private players in setting up model schools. Under the corporate social responsibility project, groups like Oil India Limited could be roped in to set up such schools in PPP mode with the state government. The chief minister will soon hold a meeting with the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, the nodal agency for the project, to discuss in detail about the status of setting up model schools after the Centre's recent decision," a source said.
In 2009, the UPA government had announced the setting up of 6,000 model schools, having quality infrastructure and academic facilities, in educationally backward blocks in the country at a cost of Rs 12,750 crore. "Land hassles initially delayed the project. Dispur actually started the project in 2013," the source added.
The project aims at improving the quality of education imparted to children in rural areas at the elementary and secondary levels. It aims at removing gender, socio-economic and disability barriers by providing universal access to secondary level education by 2017.
Till the last financial year (2014-15), the Union ministry of human resource development was funding 70 per cent of the project while the state government's share was 30 per cent.
Sources said if the state government is not able to manage adequate funds on its own, the number of model schools might go down. "Schools will then be set up only in those blocks which are in urgent need of quality education," an education department official said.