They are flocking to classes every day, braving the rains and treacherous roads. But many of the 4.3 lakh kids studying in municipal schools in the city do not have clean uniforms, sturdy schoolbags, or usable notebooks.
This is astonishing considering the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has been spending huge sums – like Rs 192 crore in 2012 – every two years for purchasing these items, among 27, meant to be supplied to a civic school student. The fact is, not even one of the 1,319 such institutes in the city has received all the accessories, claimed opposition corporators in BMC.
This has been the situation for several years, as the whopping amounts splurged by the BMC go in vain since the students don’t receive the things they need on time. Yet, no action is taken against the contractor, the opposition alleged.
Only about 10,000 kids have received the uniforms this time, while others are forced to make do with the ones they got last year – every child is only provided a single set. In the L ward (Kurla), of about 62,000 students just 1,000 have got the outfits and 785 have obtained notebooks. The acuteness of the problem is obvious given that a few councillors have argued in favour of doling out money to the parents, as the contractor is depriving the kids of their rights. Many such issues came up after NCP’s Dr Saeeda Khan raised a point in the House.
Several NGOs of the city contend that it is because of this sorry state of affairs at civic schools that people are reluctant to enrol their kids here. They maintain that for the past many years, the children have been getting their kits only by December. The administration has been trying to speed up the process, but it claims that students are more and the quantity of supplies is less.
A representative of an NGO that helps in running some BMC schools said, “The items have come late, around the end of July. But some schools are still waiting for uniforms and others for books meant for Stds I and II.”
Meanwhile, all the councillors – irrespective of affiliations – have been quick to blame the contractor. “The authorities have been wasting taxpayers’ money, and this is a form of corruption. We demand serious action against the contractor and to find out why he is not being able to supply the items on time. This is absolutely not done, as due to his negligence the children are suffering,” MNS corporator Sandeep Deshpande said.
Congress’s Dnyanraj Nikam said, “There is a need for serious action against the contractor, as this trend cannot be allowed to continue. When BMC is attempting to promote education among children and coming up with new schemes and means, if essential items are not provided on time, how will the kids be able to study in a congenial environment?”
Additional municipal commissioner Mohan Adtani said, “According to the contractor, he has been able to supply only 60 per cent of the items to the schools. We have asked him to speed up the process so students don’t face further problems.”
Only first two kids of couples may get school accessories
The richest civic body in the country is looking to trim down its expenses, and families with several school-going children could be at the receiving end. If Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) sees merit in former mayor Shraddha Jadhav’s recommendation then only the first two kids of couples will be eligible for the 27 items they receive for free at civic-run schools. Jadhav has put forward a notice of motion (NoM), which is on the General Body’s agenda for August. The Shiv Sena corporator appears inspired by rival Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s conviction that people immigrating from other states is damaging the demographics of Mumbai city. In the NoM she has pointed out that the burgeoning population in the city is a major reason behind her proposal and how numerous ‘non-Mumbaikars’ are benefiting from these school items. Municipal schools do not deny admission to anyone and the Right to Education (RTE) Act also instructs not to deny anyone schooling. The councillor has mentioned in her NoM that this has become an added burden
Mohan Adtani, Additional Municipal Commissioner
They all count
>> Geometry box (empty)
>> Box of crayons
>> Pencil box
>> Water bottle
>> Tiffin box
>> Girl’s shoes
>> Boy’s shoes
>> Girl’s rainy shoes
>> Boy’s rainy shoes
>> Umbrellas (supplied once in two years)
>> Raincoats (supplied once in two years)
Number of students who have received new uniforms out of the 4.3 lakh students studying in municipal schools in the city
Number of students who have received textbooks out of the 62,000 BMC students in Kurla alone
The items have started coming since the end of July. But compared to the number of students, the supplies are insufficient, and while some schools have not received shirts and trousers, others are yet to get socks.
-- Naseer Sheikh, BMC teacher from Malad and vice-president, Brihanmumbai Mahanagarpalika Shikshak Sabha
They are just inefficient at their work. This is the case every year; all the 27 items never come on time, as neither the students nor the parents raise a hue and cry over it. The drop-out rate in BMC schools is so high owing to the poor quality education being offered there. The school kits issue is secondary.
-- Nitai Mehta, founder of Praja Foundation
-- Inputs by Kranti Vibhute