Op-Ed: What happens when public schools lose students?
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(Photo: File Photo)
By Ritu Rajan
(Reuters) – In the past decade, parents have been left to wonder what happens to their kids when schools close down, teachers are fired or laid off, and students are forced to switch to “somewhere else.”
When the government’s flagship schools act, which was designed to give state-run schools an opportunity to upgrade their infrastructure, students get in line at the end of the line, waiting for their chance to apply to the next school.
Yet, with the last school in the state of Punjab set to close on May 1, parents in Rajasthan are left with questions as to how they will do without their children.
“We have been praying to God that things will look normal again,” said Sunita, a single parent from a farming family in Jodhpur, who sent her six children to a government school. “I don’t know how to handle this situation. I just pray that it doesn’t get worse.”
A few months ago, the government said it would be closing down the remaining public schools in the state, and replacing them with private institutions. But the plan has been met with a storm of reaction from political leaders and social activists who fear what will happen to students forced to leave the state’s public schools.
They have also questioned why Rajasthan officials are not considering other options, like giving students in private institutions a one-year grace period to seek government help in finding a better school.
“The decision is being taken very far ahead and that is very disappointing,” said Suresh Chand, the head of education in Jodhpur district.
In the past decade, some of the biggest school closures in India occurred in the country’s southern states, where the ruling Congress party, on paper, introduced reforms to address widespread complaints about quality.
In 2004, there were 28,000 students per day