Leave aside Internet, some schools in Karnataka still do not have even functional toilets

During the worst phase of COVID-19 spread, as academic calendar was thrown out of gear and the only way to keep a semblance of classroom going was through the Internet, there was much talk on the need to ensure connectivity to all schools in Karnataka. And yet, according to the latest data, as many as 33,308 schools have no computers yet in the State. Not surprisingly, a majorly of them (29,475) are government run, while 1,563 are aided and 2,268 privately run.

There is no Internet facility in 53,860 schools, including 44,371 government schools. Only, 17,201 schools have functional projectors. About 8,016 schools have implemented smart classrooms. A total of 2,830 schools have digital library facility, 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 aided, 19,650 private, and 11 other schools.

More basic concerns

For schoolchildren in the more remote parts, Internet connectivity is not even an immediate concern, considering they lack facilities far more basic, such as functional toilets, safe drinking water, and classrooms that do not leak. With heavy rains and floods over the last two years taking a toll on buildings, several old schools have been damaged and roofs are leaking. Some have even collapsed. This has only added to the infrastructure gaps that many schools were already facing.

An illustration of this came recently when Former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy was mobbed by a rather unexpected group that consisted neither his party workers nor voters when he entered Mastenahalli in Srinivasapura taluk of Kolar district earlier this week. A bunch of school boys and girls surrounded him while he was on a pre-election tour there and demanded that he take a look at the leaking roof of their school building and badly maintained classrooms.

A file photo of a government primary Marathi school in Shindoli village, Belagavi district.

A file photo of a government primary Marathi school in Shindoli village, Belagavi district.

No toilets for girls

For instance, despite all the rhetoric on “beti padhao, beti bachao”, as per UDISE+ 2021-22 report, 1,532 schools in Karnataka do not have separate toilets for girl students. Even among schools that have girls’ toilets, 2,101 are non-functional. Around 4,153 schools don’t have toilets for boys and 5,047 are non-functional. As many as 328 schools have no toilets for either boys or girls.

A government high school teachers from Kolar district said, “Who will do the cleaning of classrooms and toilets in the biggest question we face. The department is providing ₹2,000 for toilet cleaning per annum. But we have to pay a minimum of ₹500 for one-time toilet cleaning.” A class VIII student of an Urdu-medium school in Ramanagaram district described the woes of girl students, “In our school, there are around 270 students, and about half girls. Out of five toilets, two are for girls, two for boys and one is for teachers. The toilets are not cleaned. We don’t drink much water during school hours to avoid going to the toilet.”

Interestingly, as per data, total of 8,153 schools have no handwash facility, a habit much-emphasised in post-COVID times. Karnataka also did not fare well in health checkup. As many as 12,442 schools did not conduct medical checkups in the last academic year.

The teacher in Kolar also pointed out that due to heavy rain, school buildings were damaged. “Every year the department is taking proposal for school building renovation and new building. But, there is no progress since five years,” he added.

Water, electricity and other facilities

Though electricity and drinking water are basic necessities of every school, there are still schools that lack these. There is no electricity in 714 schools, including 436 government schools. As many as 220 schools do not have any source of drinking water, and 80 schools have unprotected well water.

The much-talked about rain water harvesting is moving at a slow pace in educational institutions. As many as 25,999 schools have adopted the system and it remains pending on 50,451 schools.

Lack of infrastructure for curricular and extracurricular activities ails many schools. In the State, there are 14,312 schools that don’t have playground. There is no science laboratory in 7,259 schools and no library or book bank in 2,772 schools.

Children staging a protest for better infrastructure when Janata Dal (S) leader HD Kumaraswamy visited Sreenivasapura during the Pancha Ratha Yatra recently.

Children staging a protest for better infrastructure when Janata Dal (S) leader HD Kumaraswamy visited Sreenivasapura during the Pancha Ratha Yatra recently.

Enrollment declines

Compared to the academic year of 2021-22, the current academic year enrollment in the State schools has declined by 79,843, with one of the factors leading to it arguably being poor infrastructure.

In the academic year of 2021-22, a total of 1,20,92,381 students were enrolled in the State schools. According to the Department of Public Instruction data, this year a total of 1,20,12,538 children were admitted to various schools. When enrollment in government schools alone is considered, it has declined by 1.62 lakh, from 47,04,038 to 45,41,800.

Infrastructure is priority: Minister

Speaking to The Hindu, Dr. Vishal R., Commissioner for the Department of Public Instruction, said the decline in enrollment is gradual owing to micro-families and family planning. “Due to the COVID-19, lakhs of students migrated from private schools to government schools. However, now, students are back to private schools from government schools.”

BC Nagesh, Minister for Department of School Education and Literacy, insisted that the present government was paying enough attention to classrooms.

“The previous government ignored school infrastructure and it had built only around 4,500 classroom. But, during the term of forming Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, we built around 8,000 classrooms. Now, we launched the Viveka classroom scheme and we will build around 8,100 new classrooms. Our government took the construction of toilets on priority basis and Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has already announced ₹250 crore special fund on August 15, 2022. Some toilets will be renovated and some will be newly built. We are conducting an assessment of toilets across the State. Within six month, we will complete their construction,” he said.

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