On the one hand, the government claims it is doing all it can to put dropouts back in school and, on the other, it has left thousands of children out in the cold with its decision to crack down on 7,000 schools because they are too small. These are all small schools and most of the students enrolled are underprivileged kids.
A report in this paper yesterday stated that a Government Resolution (GR) in 2013 decreed that all schools in urban areas must be sized at 1 acre, while those in rural areas must possess 2 acres. They were sent the final notice on April 4, and were given a week to shut down.
School managements are fighting back to persuade the government to change its decision, saying they are small-sized operations with around 100 students each. The institutes have now appealed to the state education minister.
It is myopic to expect schools, especially in this city, to have a designated area of 1 acre. Where are small schools expected to get that kind of space? How can one suddenly force a decision like that on schools? If that was the stipulation, then these schools should simply have not been allowed to come up in the first place.
Has the government thought about what will happen to students who will be forced out of schools because of this mass closure? Where will they be accommodated? With schools already stretched thin, it will be hugely difficult to get admission elsewhere.
Instead, the state must concentrate on whether school buildings are safe and have amenities for the students. Focus on the quality of teachers and presence of counsellors.
These are better methods to help close the gap between mainstream schools and those for underprivileged students. While a lot of space would be ideal, it is unrealistic to expect Mumbai schools to suddenly adhere to this rule. It is not as if learning cannot take place in smaller places. The success of footpath schools is a case in point.
It is time for the state to wake up and see the inanity of this decision and the adverse effect for all concerned.