During the worst phase of the spread of COVID-19, when the academic calendar was out of whack and the only way to keep semblance of a classroom going was the internet, there was much talk about the need to improve connectivity to all schools in secure Karnataka. And yet, according to the latest data, 33,308 schools in the state still don’t have computers. Not surprisingly, a majority of them (29,475) are run by the government, while 1,563 are assisted and 2,268 are privately run.
53,860 schools, including 44,371 government schools, have no internet facility. Only 17,201 schools have working projectors. About 8,016 schools have implemented smart classrooms. A total of 2,830 schools have a digital library, according to the recently released Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) 2021-22 report.
Karnataka has a total of 76,450 schools, including 49,679 government, 7,110 assisted, 19,650 private and 11 other schools.
More fundamental concerns
For schoolchildren in the more remote areas, internet connectivity is not even an immediate problem considering they lack far more basic amenities like working toilets, clean drinking water and classrooms that are sealed. Heavy rains and flooding over the past two years have taken their toll on buildings, with several old schools damaged and roofs leaking. Some even collapsed. This has only compounded the infrastructure gaps that many schools were already facing.
An example of this came recently when former Prime Minister HD Kumaraswamy was attacked earlier this week by a rather unexpected group consisting of neither his party officials nor voters as he entered Mastenahalli in Srinivasapura taluk in Kolar district. A bunch of schoolboys and girls surrounded him when he was there on a pre-election tour, urging him to check out their school building’s leaking roof and poorly maintained classrooms.
File photo of a Marathi Government Primary School in Shindoli Village, 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 female students. Even of the schools with girls’ toilets, 2,101 are non-functional. Around 4,153 schools do not have toilets for boys and 5,047 are non-functional. Up to 328 schools have no toilets for either boys or girls.
A state high school teacher from Kolar District said, “Who will do the cleaning of the classrooms and toilets in the biggest issue we face? The department allocates £2,000 a year towards toilet cleaning. But we have to pay at least ₹500 for one-time toilet cleaning.” A Class VIII student at an Urdu Medium school in Ramanagaram district described the plight of students: “In our school there are about 270 students, about half of whom are girls. Out of five toilets, two are for girls, two for boys and one for teachers. The toilets are not cleaned. We don’t drink a lot of water during school hours to avoid going to the toilet.”
Interestingly, according to the data, a total of 8,153 schools have no handwashing facility, a habit much emphasized in post-COVID times. Karnataka also did not do well on the health check. A total of 12,442 schools did not conduct any medical examinations in the last school year.
The teacher in Kolar also pointed out that due to heavy rain, school buildings were damaged. “Each year the department accepts proposals for the renovation and new construction of school buildings. But there hasn’t been any progress for five years,” he added.
water, electricity and other facilities
Although electricity and drinking water are basic needs of every school, there are still schools that lack these. There is no electricity in 714 schools, including 436 state schools. 220 schools have no source of drinking water and 80 schools have unprotected well water.
The much-discussed use of rainwater is progressing slowly in educational institutions. Up to 25,999 schools have implemented the system and 50,451 schools are still pending.
Many schools suffer from a lack of infrastructure for both academic and extracurricular activities. There are 14,312 schools in the state that do not have a playground. 7,259 schools have no science laboratory and 2,772 schools have no library or book bank.
Children protested for better infrastructure when HD Kumaraswamy, the leader of Janata Dal (S), recently visited Sreenivasapura during the Pancha Ratha Yatra.
The registration goes back
Compared to the 2021-22 school year, enrollment in the current school year in state schools has decreased by 79,843, with poor infrastructure arguably one of the contributing factors.
In the 2021/22 school year, a total of 1,20,92,381 students were enrolled in state schools. According to the Ministry of Public Education, a total of 188.8.131.528 children were admitted to different schools this year. Looking only at enrollment in government schools, it has fallen by 1.62 lakh, from 47.04.038 to 45.41.800.
Infrastructure a priority: minister
Speak with The Hindusaid Dr. Vishal R., Commissioner for the Department of Public Education, that the decline in enrollment due to small families and family planning is gradual. “Due to COVID-19, thousands of students have migrated from private schools to government schools. But now students are returning from state schools to private schools.”
BC Nagesh, Minister for Education and Literacy, insisted the current government is paying enough attention to classrooms.
“The previous government ignored school infrastructure and had only built about 4,500 classrooms. But during the tenure of former Prime Minister BS Yediyurappa, we built around 8,000 classrooms. Now we have launched the Viveka classroom program and will build around 8,100 new classrooms. Our government has prioritized toilet construction and Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has already announced a special fund of ₹250 crore for August 15, 2022. Some toilets will be renovated and some will be newly built. We are conducting an assessment of restrooms across the state. We will complete its construction within six months,” he said.