While municipal schools are earned an unshakeable reputationfor shoddy quality of education, Pune Municipal Corporation Commissioner Mahesh Pathak has curtailed Rs 49.4 crore from the budget submitted by the Education Board.
In doing so, he has snubbed student-centric projects for upgradation and innovative of the education model, while dispensing the free counsel that the Board should ‘propose a budget that it can really afford’.
In its meeting today, the PMC standing committee is going to approve a budget of Rs 279.4 crore for the Education Board, which had originally submitted a budget proposal of Rs 328 crore.
There is a phalanx of projects that could be implemented next academic year in the 310 PMC-run schools with roughly a 1,000 students on their rolls. Most of these require funds worth a few lakhs. But the civic commissioner has deigned it apt to pull the plug on them, without so much as a cursory discussion with members of the Education Board, they claimed.
The projects that have been refused financial backing include overall improvement of quality in schools, for which the board had estimated a cost of Rs 10 lakh, and establishing research cells to keep abreast of new trends in primary education, for which the requirement is just Rs 5 lakh.
‘Basic needs denied’
Board member Vinita Tatke said, "We have included all these new projects which will ultimately help to improve the quality of education. One such project is to develop 15 central, model schools -- one in each ward -- where all the academic, sports and other specialised material would be made available for all the schools in that area. The Board had proposed a Rs 1.5 crore budget for this, but it has been shot down."
She added, "The PMC administration should consider this a priority. In any case, rather than rejecting all the new projects for want of funds, we will approach private firms in the city to see if something can be worked out."
Another member, Shirish Phadtare, said, “The commissioner should have at least discussed the matter with Board before cutting back on these important projects. This means the officials whom he consulted have not briefed him correctly."
He continued, “We have asked for Rs 5 lakh funds to provide each student a set of study material which would help them practise for exams at home without any coaching class. But the commissioner has denied this provision."
He added, “PMC schools are already short on staff. The requirement for 46 kindergarten teachers has still not been met. And even this very essential demand has not been accepted. No financial provision has made in the budget for this."
Education activist Matin Mujawar said, “This shows how the PMC administration lacks the will required to improve quality of education. Since the budget comes from the public’s money, at least student-focussed projects should receive adequate funds.”
PMC boss says
Dismissing concerns about students taking a hit, Pathak said, “The Education Board should first fully use their existing resources. Anyhow, they have presented the budget under 150 heads so they can manage funds for the projects."
In the first review meeting of the budget, the PMC commissioner appealed to members to propose only the projects that are really essential, citing low revenue generated by the local body tax (LBT), as compared to the earlier tax system, Octroi. However, in the light of the November tax revenue figures, PMC officials had claimed that due to various methods of recovery, the LBT earnings had reached almost at par with Octroi's.
Rs 328 cr
Budget amount proposed by the civic Education Board
Rs 279 cr
Amount to be sanctioned today, after civic chief curtailed budget