Uttar Pradesh government’s scheme to transfer Rs. 1,100 to parents of 1.8 crore government school children for uniform material is nothing more than a bribe to a vote bank, said state education activist Chaturanan Ojha on December 2, 2021.
Speaking to SabrangIndia, Ojha criticised the November scheme of the state government to transfer money to guardians’ accounts via Direct Bank Transfer (DBT) to buy school uniforms, sweaters, shoes, socks and bags. He said that authorities should instead be focusing on the inadequate number of teachers in schools.
“They can’t educate kids but they will send money to their guardians. This money is not for education but a bribe to the parents. The money will be used for household expenses while the state of education will remain the same,” says Ojha.
On November 6, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath launched the scheme under the Basic Shiksha Parishad and said that students will get a chance for a brighter future. According to NewsClick, he said that the condition of government schools has improved greatly after his government came to power in 2017. However, this claim was shot down by several activists, parents and teachers who spoke to Sabrang India.
Dohia’s Kailesh Tripathi, whose son studies in class 3 of a local government school, expressed complete helplessness in assessing these government decisions. “Since I have to do agriculture-related work, I can’t pass judgement on government schemes,” he says, asking, “But how can Rs. 1,100 ever be enough for the list of things mentioned by the government?” Many other families from the school also received the government money which proved insufficient to buy all the required material for their children. “Uniform is very important for the child’s education but what’s most important is the quality of education – textbooks and study material. Like me, many parents are not satisfied with the condition of government schools. Still, at least our children get some education,” says Tripathi.
Further, while Tripathi berated the amount of money transferred to schools, he sympathised with institutions that struggled to deliver such material to children during Covid-19. In that respect, primary school teachers heaved a sigh of relief in having one less task to worry about.
Gorakhpur’s P. S. Badgo primary school teacher Rajeshdhar Dubey says, “We are not sure if this transfer to parents is a good idea because many may use it for household expenses. However, it is one strain off our backs. We will still counsel guardians in this respect. Mothers are a bit more conscientious with such tasks but at the end of the day, education is secondary to livelihood.”
Dubey mentioned that many guardians are yet to open their KYC accounts which further complicates the money transfer process.
Wasted procurement in previous years
A 2021 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report regarding the state’s 2019 activities found irregularities in procurement of school bags and unfruitful expenditure on undisbursed school bags by the Basic Education department. The report said that against the supply order of 1.80 crore school bags for all districts, suppliers provided only 78.58 lakh (44 percent) school bags while receiving a total payment of Rs. 109.15 crore.
“Out of the 75 districts [in the state], eight districts received partial supplies while 38 districts received no supplies. Of the supplies received, only 65.27 lakh school bags (83 per cent) were distributed to children during 2016-17. As a result, the benefit of the scheme could not be extended to 1.15 crore students,” said the report.
Moreover, out of the 78.58 lakh school bags supplied that year, 13.31 lakh school bags were left undistributed up to the end of the academic session 2016-17. The Directorate of Basic Education on its part said it frequently brought up the issue with state authorities.
In response, the state government ordered the distribution of only 6.76 lakh bags during 2017-18 but did not issue any directives for the remaining 6.55 lakh bags. These bags, with a warranty of only one year, were left undistributed for over three years, which resulted in “unfruitful expenditure of 5.33 crore.”
In their recent announcement, the government officials said nothing of these bags that cost a hefty amount to state funds.
Uniforms, a real issue for government schools?
According to Ojha, the amount distributed among guardians will serve like the laptop offers to graduate students. The scheme can help increase enrolment in schools but it will not sustain the influx nor improve Uttar Pradesh education.
“What’s more pertinent is ensuring one teacher per class of 30 students. UP has a longstanding ritual of multiple classes in one room,” he said. He dismissed the uniform scheme as one that only benefits corporates and private entities, adding that the money won’t even buy shoes for children.
Meanwhile, AIFRTE activist Aflatoon had a different view on the scheme. While he agreed that the scheme is ridden with loopholes, he argued that uniforms serve as an important part of school education. “Uniforms are very important to kids. Some children even wear them on holidays. It is important for equality,” he said.
Still, he said that there were other pressing issues like the teacher to student ratio in schools. He pointed out that many schools have only one teacher for classes one to five. Due to this, the AIFRTE has demanded that government schools receive all facilities with minimum change in Budget, while the focus shifts away from private and English schools.
When asked about the current state of education in UP, parent Tripathi said, “Rich people can teach their children in a convent school. However, we depend on the government. So the quality of education is always a concern. My child is good at studies, but since I do not have much knowledge about schooling, I don’t know how to help him.”