Odisha plans to reopen schools closed due to low enrolments



BHUBANESWAR: After closing down more than 1160 schools for having 10 or less students, the state government has decided to reopen those schools located in inaccessible areas irrespective of number of students enrolled.
The government will conduct a survey to find out such schools whose closure might have created problems in relocating the students because of the geographical barriers or bad road conditions.
“If any school is closed due to less than 10 enrolments but there are geographical barriers to send them to nearby schools, such type of schools should be identified and the detailed proposal for reopening the school should be submitted for consideration at the government level,” OPEPA wrote in a letter to all district education officers.
Government has taken this decision after complaints of children dropping out in large numbers reported due to closure of schools in several districts of the state. Besides, no alternative arrangements were made in places where schools were closed in tribal and difficult terrains as per the guidelines.
“The schools are supposed to provide transport facilities to ensure access of the children in the nearby schools and if required by attaching a shikshya sahayak to bring the children to school,” read the government notification on school closure. 
After the only primary school in Kandakutti village in Rayagada district closed due to less than 10 students, parents did not agree to send their children to the nearest school, which is located five kilometres away in a hilly terrain. “Children had to cover hills and rivers to go to the nearby school. Parents are not aware of the transportation facility to be provided by the school to the children. All the children of the village are now out of school,” said Ghasiram Panda, a social activist who visited the village last month.
The government closed down several such schools in tribal areas ignoring the order of Odisha State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (OSCPCR) to conduct impact assessment in the villages before closing down the school, alleged Right to Education activists.
“By closing down the schools, the objective of free and compulsory education to all has been violated. If government would have conducted impact assessment or discussed the issue with villagers before closing schools, lesser children would have been affected,” said Anil Pradhan, an RTE activist.
Sources said, around 7030 children of the 1169 closed schools have been relocated to nearest schools. However, there is a gap of around 673 children between the number of children in schools at the time of closure and number of students relocated.