Patna: The Nitish Kumar government in Bihar has drawn flak from allies as well as adversaries over the state Education department’s move of striking off the names of more than 20 lakh students from government schools for remaining absent.
Those whose names have been struck off also include 2.66 lakh students who were supposed to appear for class 10 and 12 board exams.
The Education department has so far struck off names of 20,60,340 students (till October 19, 2023) from government schools after it began a drive to improve attendance since September 1, 2023, an official said.
The drive was initiated following instructions issued by KK Pathak, Additional Chief Secretary of the Education department.
Pathak in a letter dated September 2, 2023, to all District Magistrates ordered drastic measures like expulsion of students who remain absent for 15 days at a stretch and ‘tracking’ boys and girls studying in private schools, or in far-off places like Kota while remaining enrolled in government schools to avail benefits of the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme for textbooks and uniforms.
CPI (ML) Liberation MLA Sandeep Saurav told PTI, ‘This is simply a dictatorial decision taken by the department. The department has no right to play with the careers of students. The department must know that government schools are still facing an acute shortage of teachers and classrooms.
‘How can the department expect 100 per cent attendance of students, when there are no teachers to teach subjects like physics, chemistry and mathematics in higher classes? This is the responsibility of the department to provide all basic infrastructural and academic facilities in government schools first and then implement mandatory attendance rules for students’.
Saurav, who is also the national general secretary of All India Students Association (AISA) and former JNUSU general secretary said, ‘We demand immediate withdrawal of this order of the Education department’.
The CPI (ML) Liberation is an alliance partner of the Grand Alliance government in Bihar.
Leader of Opposition in Bihar Assembly, Vijay Kumar Sinha, told PTI, ‘If government schools in Bihar are facing acute shortage of teachers, students will have no option to…they (students) will certainly join private coaching institutes to complete their syllabus.
‘The Nitish Kumar government has miserably failed in improving the deteriorating condition of government schools in the state. I must say that students are being victimized by the state government just to hide serious shortcomings in the education system in Bihar. We demand immediate restoration of enrolments of those students whose names have been struck off’.
Despite repeated attempts by the PTI, Bihar Education Minister, Chandra Shekhar, was not available for his comments on the issue.
The state Education department has come out with a slew of measures to improve the quality of education in the state.
Pathak in his letter, dated September 2, wrote, ‘There are schools in the state where the attendance of students is less than 50 per cent…It is a matter of serious concern. This requires the intervention of the concerned District Education Officers (DEOs). All concerned DEOs are directed to select such five schools in their respective areas and communicate with the parents of absentee students to improve the attendance of students’.
There are 75,309 government schools in the state.
‘The department has received complaints that for the purpose of taking benefits of DBT schemes, students have enrolled only in government schools, while they study in private schools. At the same time, there is information about some students living outside the state (Kota in Rajasthan). Such students must be tracked and the enrollment of these students should be cancelled, who are enrolled with government schools only for availing the benefit of DBT schemes.
‘The department provides DBT benefits to students of Rs 3000 crore annually. If the enrollment of even 10 per cent of such students, who are enrolled here only for the purpose of DBT benefits, is cancelled, then there will be direct savings of Rs 300 crore, that can be utilized for some other works’, Pathak had said in his letter.
(Published 26 October 2023, 10:51 IST)