During the worst phase of the spread of COVID-19, when the academic calendar was out of order and the only way to maintain the semblance of a classroom was through the Internet, there was much talk of ensuring connectivity to all schools in Karnataka. And yet, according to the latest data, as many as 33,308 schools in the country are still without computers. Unsurprisingly, the majority (29,475) are government-run, while 1,563 are aided and 2,268 are privately owned.
There is no internet in 53,860 schools, including 44,371 government schools. Only 17,201 schools have working projectors. Around 8016 schools have implemented smart classrooms. According to the recently released Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) 2021-22 report, a total of 2,830 schools have digital libraries.
Karnataka has a total of 76,450 schools, including 49,679 government, 7,110 aided, 19,650 private and 11 other schools.
More basic concerns
For schoolchildren in more remote areas, internet connectivity is not even an immediate concern, as they lack significantly more basic facilities such as functional toilets, safe drinking water and leak-proof classrooms. Several old schools have been damaged and the roofs are leaking due to heavy rains and floods in the past two years that have affected buildings. Some even failed. This only added to the infrastructural gaps that many schools faced.
An illustration of this was recently when former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy was mobbed by a rather unexpected group, consisting of neither his party workers nor voters, when he entered Mastenahalli in Srinivasapura taluk of Kolar district earlier this week. While there on a campaign tour, he was surrounded by a crowd of schoolchildren demanding to see their school’s leaking roof and poorly maintained classrooms.
Photo of Government Primary Marathi School in Shindoli village of Belagavi district.
No toilets for girls
For example, despite all the rhetoric about “beti padhao, beti bachao”, according to the UDISE+ 2021-22 report, 1,532 schools in Karnataka do not have separate toilets for girl students. Even among the schools that have toilets for girls, 2,101 are non-functioning. About 4,153 schools do not have toilets for boys and 5,047 are non-functional. As many as 328 schools do not have toilets for either boys or girls.
Government high school teachers from Kolar district said, “Who will clean the classrooms and toilets is the biggest issue we are facing. The department provides ₹2,000 for cleaning toilets per year. But we have to pay at least ₹500 for cleaning the toilet once.” Student VIII. class of an Urdu high school in Ramanagaram district described the plight of students: “There are about 270 students in our school and about half of them are girls. Of the five toilets, two are for girls, two are for boys and one is for female teachers. The toilets are not cleaned. We don’t drink a lot of water during school hours so we don’t have to go to the toilet.”
Interestingly, according to the data, a total of 8,153 schools do not have handwashing facilities, a habit that is highly emphasized in the post-Covid era. Karnataka also did not fare well in the health check. As many as 12,442 schools did not carry out medical examinations in the last academic year.
The teacher in Kolar also warned that the school buildings were damaged due to heavy rains. “Every year, the department accepts proposals for the renovation and new construction of the school building. But there is no progress after five years,” he added.
Water, electricity and other facilities
Although electricity and drinking water are basic necessities of every school, there are still schools that do not have them. There are 714 schools without electricity, of which 436 are state schools. As many as 220 schools do not have any source of drinking water, while 80 schools have unsafe water from wells.
Much talked about rainwater harvesting is moving slowly in educational institutions. As many as 25,999 schools have adopted the system, and 50,451 schools are still waiting for it.
Many schools suffer from a lack of infrastructure for learning and extracurricular activities. There are 14,312 schools in the country that do not have playgrounds. In 7,259 schools there is no science laboratory, and in 2,772 schools there is no library or book bank.
Children protest for better infrastructure when Janata Dal (S) leader HD Kumaraswamy visited Sreenivasapura during the Pancha Ratha Yatra recently.
Registration is cancelled
Compared to the 2021/2022 academic year, enrollment in state schools has decreased by 79,843 in the current academic year, with poor infrastructure likely to be one of the factors leading to this.
In the school year 2021-22, a total of 1,20,92,381 students were enrolled in state schools. According to the Ministry of Public Education, a total of 1,20,12,538 children were admitted to various schools this year. Taking government school enrollment alone, it fell by 1.62 lakh, from 47,04,038 to 45,41,800.
Infrastructure is a priority: the minister
In a conversation with Hindu, dr. Vishal R., commissioner of the department of public instruction, said the decline in enrollment is gradual due to micro-families and family planning. “Due to COVID-19, millions of students have migrated from private schools to government schools. However, now students from state schools are returning to private schools.”
BC Nagesh, Minister for School Education and Literacy, insisted that the current government is paying enough attention to classrooms.
“The previous government ignored school infrastructure and only built around 4,500 classrooms. But during the tenure of previous Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, we built around 8000 classrooms. We have now launched the Viveka classroom scheme and will build around 8,100 new classrooms. Our government has made construction of toilets a priority and Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has already announced a special fund of ₹250 crore on 15 August 2022. Some toilets will be renovated and some will be newly built. We are conducting an assessment of toilets across the country. We will complete their construction in six months,” he said.