Odisha govt. modifies school closure criterion after protests

The Naveen Patnaik Government on Sunday changed school closure criterion following criticism from Opposition legislators and general public.

The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress had stalled Assembly proceedings demanding withdrawal of school closure notification on Saturday.

There are 67,000 schools including 52,000 schools coming under School and Mass Education department in Odisha.

The government has announced to close down schools having less than 20 students, across the State. If there are two schools situated within one kilometre distance, then schools having student strength of less than 25 in schedule areas and 40 in non-schedule area would have been shut. As many as 7,772 schools were facing closure.

Move opposed

Opposition parties had been vehemently opposing the move. Senior Congress leader Tara Prasad Bahinipati had announced to end his life in Assembly if the decision was not rescinded.

They said closure of schools would lead to increase in rate of dropouts. Due to huge natural barriers, it was not possible for small kids to travel even one km distance, said Opposition leaders.

“Closing down schools is not an intention of the government. We have now decided to close down schools having less than 15 students in schedule area. Earlier, the criterion was 25,” said Samir Ranjan Dash, School and Mass Education Minister. Mr. Dash, however, said the less than 20-student criteria for closing down schools remained unchanged

“The ‘one size fits all’ decision will exclude thousands of children living in inaccessible region to access education. Government must revisit the policy and decide on shutting down of schools on case to case basis,” said Umi Daniel, social activist.

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