JAMMU, JAN 23: Terming education as cog-in-the-wheel of progress at all levels, Minister for Education Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari today said despite many odds and varied challenges the government succeeded to putting decrepit education system back on track and the recent board results in Kashmir offer a silver lining amid the dark clouds.
Winding up the discussion on Demand for Grants of the Education and allied Departments under his charge and responding to the points raised by the legislators, the Minister stressed on engaging in a constructive dialogue on improving the contours of the education sector, and emphasised that ‘it requires all of us to rise above political affiliations and considerations.’
He welcomed the suggestions of the Legislators and assured them that the same would be incorporated to streamline the functioning of the Department.
Admitting it was hard to bring a discernible change on the ground in the backdrop of huge gaps and challenges posed by law and order situation, he said to paint a rosy picture won’t be the right thing.
He however said that investment in education would mean investment in the future of the children ‘Nation Builders of Tomorrow’.
“Considering this fact, Government has decided on three-fold increase in the CAPEX Budget of School Education Department for the year 2018-19, “the Minister said.
He expressed gratitude to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and the Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu for having considered his projections made during series of interactions held with them.
He informed it was due to their personal efforts of the Finance Minister that despite shortfall in the allocation of salaries of SSA Teachers by the Central Government, the Finance Department has gone out of way in disbursing salaries to these Teachers from the State Budget.
The Minister reminded the members of the series of marathon constituency-wise meetings taken by him to review the education sector.
“I hope that the members by now must have framed a blueprint of their respective constituencies as the ownership of education in their areas has already been vested in them during these meetings,” he asserted and said one of the first steps in strategic partnership with the Legislators and MPs can take towards upgrading infrastructure in education sector will be their commitment to contribute Rs 1 crore each out of their CDF and MPLAD grants towards education sector. He assured that the funds provided shall be spent as per the demands of the Legislators and Parliamentarians in their respective constituencies.
He informed the house that the State Cabinet has given nod to the up-gradation of 400 schools from Middle to High and High to Higher Secondary level and establishment of 17 new degree colleges in the State.
The Minister informed that to compensate the loss of time of students of schools and colleges due to frequent disruptions, his Ministry is seriously considering notifying a separate ‘Education Calendar’ that minimises holidays and enables the teachers to complete their syllabi well in time. He sought support of the people in safeguarding the education sector from frequent disruptions and called for exempting teachers from all non-academic duties in the larger interest of the student community.
“We cannot afford to make our students suffer for this, teachers have to be discharged from all non-teaching assignments, including election-related duties,” he said.
Saying that the stat is still reprieving from the unrest of 2016 which took a heavy toll of the education sector, he said a large number of School buildings were specifically targeted by miscreants and around 32 Schools buildings were gutted, leaving the students in a lurch.
Sharing the views of the members to revisit the present education system, the Minister acknowledged that JK students have great potential and said “If we are able to nurture them and link education with skill and employability, we will achieve our goal of making our college and university campuses sought-after centres of excellence where top-notch companies would hunt for skilled human resource.”
He said with this view vocational Education is being imparted in 10 trades viz., IT/ ITES, Retail, Healthcare, Travel & Tourism, Agriculture, Telecommunications, Physical Education, Beauty and wellness Media & Entertainment and Security. It shall be my endeavour to broaden the scope of trades after proper mapping.
Calling for being more liberal while funding educational infrastructure, he said majority of the government Schools are in a pathetic state and lack even basic facilities like electricity, drinking water, lavatories, ramps, playgrounds, computer-aided labs and tools of modern learning like Smart Classrooms.
“Unless we address this huge infrastructural gap, any false promise of revamping the educational sector shall remain an absurd pretence and nothing more than a charade. After carrying out detailed assessment of existing infrastructure gap, it has been assessed that the School Education Department requires additional funding to the tune of Rs. 2500 crore towards renovation of existing infrastructure facilities. Similarly in the Higher Education sector, which is a relatively new Department, there is an urgent requirement of around Rs. 1300 crore, to bridge over infrastructure gap” the Minister asserted.
He said after intensive study and feedback, the department has been able to draw a perspective plan for the next three years to bring out a visible change on the ground in terms of augmenting infrastructure development in the education sector. “To implement this perspective plan, a first tranche of Rs 400 crore in School Education Department and Rs. 200 crore in Higher Education Department is immediately required to set the ball rolling” he added.
He, however, said under Rashtriya Ucchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), the Central flagship scheme, the government is trying to address key areas to make the institutes of higher learning centres oexcellence.
Citing that there was an urgent need to construct around 3200 additional classrooms in high and higher secondary Schools and 5500 classrooms in primary and upper primary, as per present enrolment, the Minister said the department needs more than this.
“After all, it is our children who are enrolled in these Schools. Let us not be parochial and see these 5300 Schools as competitors or rivals but as real partners in the field of education.” He, however, said that there are certain issues with the functioning of the private schools which we are looking into, especially the one related to regulation of fee structure, purchase of textbooks and school uniforms for which this House has expressed concern. “To address this, the School Education Department is actively considering bringing in legislation to regulate fee structure of all private educational institutions in the State so that we do not see these only as profiteering tuck-shops, as the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed” the Minister added.