Mumbai: Balwadis witness 80 percent increase as BMC schools on verge of closure

Updated: Dec 13, 2019, 14:10 IST | Pallavi Smart | Mumbai

The latest data demonstrates a nearly 80 percent increase in student strength between September 2018 and October 2019

The BMC headquarters located in Fort
The BMC headquarters located in Fort

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) pre-primary schools run by NGOs are a runaway success but primary schools run by their own administration are on the wane. The total number of Balwadis which were 489 in the academic year 2017-18 has now increased to 738 in 2019-20 and number students to have increased from 14,854 to 24,089 in the same timeframe. The BMC, however, has claimed that the increasing Balwadi support is their way of ensuring enrolment for primary.

In collaboration with several non-profit organizations (NGOs), the Municipal Corporation for Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has given a major facelift to the civic body operated 900 balwadis in Mumbai. The latest data demonstrates a nearly 80 percent increase in student strength between September 2018 and October 2019. Girl student enrollments have gone up nearly by 25 percent. But, the existing BMC schools are on the verge of closing down with civic body struggling with surplus teachers. This has raised questions on BMC's own administration where the schools are struggling to get students.

When contacted Education Officer at the BMC, Mahesh Palkar said, "The Balwadi's are started on contract basis itself wherein BMC gives money to NGOs to run these pre-primary schools. This also is a part of efforts taken by the civic body to ensure good enrollment in primary school considering that these Balwadi students will graduate to BMC primary schools."

He further said, "The project was executed in a phased manner with a vision following which with each year we have continued to add more Balwadis under this initiative. These new Balwadis are set up in localities where there is demand. It led to significant growth in enrollment under this programme."

On the other hand, an officer from the BMC Education department said, "Such partnership model was started only hoping that there would be a success. One of the important regulations in this program is that every Balwadi is expected to have a minimum of 20 students. If this mandate is not met, that Balwadi will be shut. This has definitely motivated the employees of these Balwadis to continuously enrolled students. These teachers with help from NGOs visit nearby slum areas and localities to identify out of school children in order to enroll them back to school, to save their jobs. Such a mandate is not so strict for primary schools run by BMC. If the school closes down because of low enrolment that teacher is declared surplus and adjusted somewhere else."

According to NGOs, however, the PPP (Public-Private Partnership) has helped these Balwadis to run successfully. Rustom Kerawalla, Trustee, RK Foundation which is running 101 Balwadis under this program said, "A tracking system for greater accountability and responsibility has now been integrated into the programme by assigning supervisors for Balwadis, who are required to carry out routine visits to centers, thereby ensuring that the deliverables are implemented daily in an expected manner, while performance indicators of students on cognitive and neuromotor learning are also measured accurately. This has resulted in a robust system and has also enabled the foundation to measure both, teaching and learning outcomes thereby resulting in good enrolment."

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