ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Closing Schools in Karnataka

It looks as though Venkatesha Murthy (“Closure of Primary Schools”, EPW, 25 February 2012) is indirectly defending the Karnataka government’s senseless decision to close as many as 1,500 primary schools on the ground that there are few children attending them. He seems to suggest that there is no need for the gov ernment to provide “learning space” (primary schools) in such villages and that this is unecono mical. Primary education is not a business and under the Right to Education Act, the State is bound to provide a school even if one child wishes to attend.

The Karnataka minister for primary education says that the state will provide autos for those children who cannot walk long distances to attend neighbouring primary schools. However this appears to lack any common sense; rural schools are not like their urban counterparts. Further, primary schoolteachers in Karnataka are well paid but many loiter around, without attending school, run tea shops and grocery stores, etc. Why cannot the government dismiss such primary schoolteachers and merge primary schools with few children with the anganwadi (where children of the 3-5 year age group attend and where nutritional supplements are also provided) of that particular village. The whole purpose of launching anganwadis in the 1970s was to attract the 3-5 year age group children and prepare them to enter primary schools. Now they can be combined and managed by primary schoolteachers and anganwadi workers for both the preschool and the primary school (6+ age group) children.

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