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Principal Investigator
Dr. S. Srinivasa Rao
Associate Professor,
Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies,
School of Social Sciences,
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi - 110067
Ms. Sriti Ganguly, Research Scholar, ZHCES/JNU
Ms. Juhi Singh, Research Scholar, ZHCES/JNU
Ms. Roma Ranu Dash, Research Scholar, ZHCES/JNU
List of Abbreviations
Executive Summary
1 Background 1
2 Objectives and Methodological Approach 5
2.1 Broad objectives of the study
2.1.1. Specific objectives of the study
2.2 Methodological approach
2.2.1. Sample selection Telangana Odisha Rajasthan
2.2.2. Selection of the sites for field investigation
2.2.3. Duration of time spent in the fieldwork in each state
2.2.4. Target groups for collecting data
2.2.5. Techniques of data collection and analysis
3. Policy Perspective: Rationale, Norms and Practices 11
3.1 Rationale, norms and practices in States
3.1.1. Odisha
3.1.2. Telangana
3.1.3. Rajasthan
3.2 Is de-merger possible?
3.3 The proposal of transport allowance
4. Authenticity of Data - Official and Possible Actual
Closures/Mergers 18
5. Profiles of Sites Visited 20
5.1 Telangana
5.2 Odisha
5.3 Rajasthan
6. Causes and Contexts for School Closures 26
6.1 Nature and size of habitation
6.2 Decline in child population
6.3 Single and double teacher schools: Conditions and attitudes
6.4 Proliferation of private schools
6.5 Seasonal migration
6.6 Conflicting government policies
6.7 Fees re-imbursement under Section 12 c of RTE
6.8 Suspicious feeding of habitation level data
7. Community Involvement in the Closure/Merger Decision-Making 36
7.1. Community resistance that resulted in halting closure or merger
8. Parent and Children Perspectives 41
8.1 Distance and risks
8.2 Dropouts and child labourers
8.3 Limited schooling options
8.4 Pre-school child population
8.5 Unfulfilled promise of transport allowance
9. Merger: The Process and its Effects 49
9.1 Whether merger took place in reality?
9.2 Whether merger enhanced quality and learning experience?
10. Impact of Closures and Mergers on the Marginalised
and Excluded 52
10.1 Tribals and Dalits
10.2 The vulnerable girl child - The biggest casualty of school closures
and mergers!
10.3 Differently abled children: Has the State been myopic about
this segment of population?
11. The Private and the Public: Comparative View of Closures 55
11.1 Are all public schools failing?
11.2 Do all private schools mean quality?
11.3 Closure of private schools: Causes and contexts
12. Closures and Mergers and Violations of Right to Education 61
13. Issues and Recommendations for Advocacy 64
and my Research Team acknowledge with gratitude the role and contributions of
many individuals and organisations in the conduct of this study. First of all, we thank
Dr. Sanjeev Rai, former National Manager, Education, Save the Children, for requesting
and intiating the preliminary dialogue to conduct the study. His power of persuasion
had indeed forced me, in particular, to accept this gigantic task of putting together
a credible report within such a short duration. I am also thankful to three important
and critical pillars in the ultimate execution of this study from Save the Children’s
National Office once Sanjeev left the Organisation. They are Mr. Prasann Thatte,
General Manager-Research; Mr. Ram Singh Hapawat, Assistant Manager-Education;
Ms. Ridhima Bahl-Sachdev, M&E Officer. Frequent meetings and interactions with
these three had helped the team to stay focused and had made the entire logistical
and methodological process very smooth. I thank them for their readiness to help me
whenever I needed their help.
I am also indebted to Save the Children coordinates from the States/regional offices
and their partner organisations for so meticulously carrying out our team’s itinerary
and logistics. We thank Ms. Surbhi Yadav (Save the Children, Rajasthan), Ms. Alka Singh
(Save the Children, Telangana),Mr. Nagesh Malladi (Save the Children, Telangana),
Mr. Sandeep (Save the Children, Rajasthan), Mr. Satya Prakash Pattanayak (Save the
Children, Rajasthan), Mr. Prosenjit Roy (Save the Children, Odisha), Mr. Avijeet Bhadra
(Save the Children, Odisha), Mr. Santosh Swain (Save the Children, Odisha), Mr. Venkat
Rao (Commitments, Telangana), Mr. Rajesh Joshi (Vaghdhara, Rajasthan), Mr. Vinod
(CULP, Rajasthan), Mr. Panini (Ibtada, Alwar), Mr. Singhvi, (Ibtada,Alwar).
Finally, I thank my wonderful, hard working team members, Ms Sriti Ganguly, Ms
Juhi Singh and Ms Roma Ranu Dash, for accompanying me to the field, completing
the transcriptions on time, and meticulously providing analytical inputs during the
preparation of the Report. I must make a special mention that Ms Sriti Ganguly had
contributed immensely to the drafting of the final Report by compiling a synthesis of
all the three states.
There have been several learnings in the conduct of this study for the Team. We thank
Save the Children for providing us this opportunity to work on this project. We deeply
cherish this experience and learning. We hope the findings of this study can make
some beginning to initiate a dialogue and a future policy change in different states as
well as at the national level.
Dr. S. Srinivasa Rao
Principal Investigator
List of Abbreviations
ASER Annual Status of Education Report
DISE District Information System for Education
EWS Economically Weaker Sections
KGBV Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidhayalaya
NGO Non-Governmental Organization
NUEPA National University of Educational Planning and Administration
OBC Other Backward Caste
OPEPA Odisha Primary Education Programme Authority
PESA Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas
PTR Pupil Teacher Ratio
RTE The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009
SC Scheduled Caste
SCERT State Council for Educational Research and Training
SCPCR State Commission for Protection of Child Rights
SCR Student Classroom Ratio
SMC School Management Committee
SSA Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
ST Scheduled Tribe
The objective of the present study is to assess how policies that have resulted in the
school mergers and closures are being implemented across different states and how
these various policies impact on the populations in accessing elementary schooling. In the
first place, we must mention that there is no uniform policy across the states of India, so we
had to select a few sample states based on their relative performance on the literacy map
of the country. The criterion adopted by the team to select the states is that the states shall
have literacy rate similar or lower to that of the national average. As most of the states that
have low literacy rates also have lower female literacy rates it makes the issue of school
closure and merger more relevant. We have consciously avoided selecting the states that
have done fairly well in terms of general literacy rate and also the female literacy rate.
For the purposes of the study, three states were selected, namely, Telangana, Odisha and
Rajasthan. These three states also represent three different regions of the country – South,
East and the North. Further, it is also these states which have either a clear governmental
orders/policies or have effected a large number of mergers/closures. Within these states, the
study included mainly two types of districts for site visits – one with high literacy rate and
another with a lower literacy rate. This was adopted as these may provide a contrasting
picture in terms of the impact of the policy. These two different kinds of districts also are
typical in terms of demographic characteristics and composition – the former generally
a more developed and urbanized and the latter a remote district with high population of
minorities, dalits and tribals.
The districts selected in Telangana are Rangareddy and Mahbubnagar (an additional district
of Medak is also visited as it was the first state the team visited and it needed to explore the
right kind of sample districts). In Odisha, Khurda and Koraput are selected and, in Rajasthan,
Alwar and Banswara are selected for the purposes the study. Within each of the districts, we
have chosen sites in one or two blocks/mandals and atleast two sites each where schools
are (a) merged and (b) closed. The team however visited more than the number of sites that
was initially decided as the field realities unfolded different scenarios.
We found that in each state a different criterion of enrolment was being followed to close
and merge schools.
• InTelangana, for instance, schools declared as of zero enrolment and schools having
enrolment of less than 20 children were closed down. The list provided by the State
reveals that a total of 458 government schools were closed as on January 2016.
• TheOdishagovernmenthasalreadyclosed165schoolshaving5orlessthanvechildren
and, as per a policy devised and yet to be implemented, a second phase is set to come
Executive Summary
into force, in which schools with 10 or less than 10 children are expected to be closed
• InRajasthan,twokindsofcriteriawerefollowedalthoughgreatdealofpolicyambiguity
remains. The first criterion was the enrolment of children (less than 30) and the second
one was the distance from the nearby secondary and higher secondary school.
However, it was pointed out by the civil society organizations that the enrolment norm is not
strictly followed and in some places like Odisha and Rajasthan many schools were arbitrarily
closed down. Due to opposition and resistance from civil society members and educationists,
the policy makers are cautiously implementing the process in a phased manner. But as the
cap will go on increasing more and more schools particularly in remote tribal habitations
will face closure.
As low enrolment remains the primary criteria for closure/merger of schools, the study
focussed on investigating the causes of low enrolment in the chosen sites.
• Firstly,inmostofthesites,thenatureofthehabitationitselfissuchthattheneighbourhood
school may not always conform to a standard pupil enrolment criterion that doesn’t take
into account geographical and demographic variation. The different stakeholders opined
that due to the difficulty of access the teachers are reluctant to go and teach in schools
located in such places. In fact, some even pointed out that a teacher may sometimes
fabricate the enrolment record to get the school closed, however, more evidence is
needed to support these claims.
• Sincewefoundmostoftheseschoolstobesingleteacherschoolswhichitselfcontravenes
RTE, teacher absenteeism makes the school redundant. As it was shared by parents and
community, these schools are unattractive spaces for children due to teacher irregularity,
general apathy towards children, and low quality of education.
• Increasingprivatization particularlyrampantin urbandistrictsdrainedthestrengthin
government schools. While in urban areas it was the emerging ‘common sense’ that
private schools provide ‘quality’ education, in rural parts the prevailing conditions of
single/double teacher schools often pushed the parents to opt for private schools.
Therefore, closures were both a cause and a consequence of the process of privatisation
of schooling especially in educationally advanced districts and urban centres.
• Thestudyalsofoundmigrationofparents,sometimesalongwiththechildrenfromthese
settlements to be another cause of declining population in these habitations, leading to
fall in enrolment. The education of children, who are left behind with their grandparents,
gets further neglected.
One of the main objectives of the study was to map the consequences of the policy of
Executive Summary
closure/merger for the populations that were affected by it. In all the three states we found
that closure has negatively impacted children’s schooling and a considerable population of
those who were attending schools dropped out after the closure/merger.
• Theconversationswiththecommunityandparentsrevealedthatthedistancebetween
the habitation and the newly merged school in rural habitations is significant for children
in the primary age group and parents are apprehensive of the risks involved in sending
small children to schools located far away. For example, these habitations are surrounded
by hills, canals, ponds, isolated stretches of farmland and so on. Therefore in the aftermath
of closure, while economically better off parents move to private schools, the poor
parents are left with limited schooling options. It is choice between a government school
located at a distance of more than 2 KMs or a private fee charging school that can put
additional burden on poor families.
• Theimpactofsuchclosuresmaynotbeacutelyfeltinthethicklypopulatedandurban
districts where one, schools are located in close proximity to each other and second, the
population might be economically better off to afford services of the private in absence
of the government schools.
• Not only because the other schools lie beyond the reach of small children due to
geographic make up but the physical presence of a school was a strong motivator for
parents, who are otherwise embroiled in existential struggles, to send their children to
the school.
• Most of these habitations are already aficted by poverty induced migration, high
number of child labourers and child marriages. Furthermore, within the dalit and tribal
community it is the girls and children with disabilities who are at the receiving end of
such a policy. These are groups that have hitherto remained excluded from schools and
the closure will only further exclude them.
The focussed group discussion held with the communities in various sites revealed that the
policy was implemented without prior consultation and assessment of the needs of the
inhabitants. Neither was there any effort on the part of the teacher/s or any other cluster/
block/mandal level officials to guide the parents or facilitate the entire process of so-called
mergers and it was left to the parents to find the nearest school for their child. However,
while the schools were closed without involving the community or SMCs, in some cases the
resistance and initiatives taken by the parents and communities helped in preventing closure
or getting the schools to re-open.
From the analysis of the policy documents and interviews of state level policy makers it
was found that policy of merger was being implemented in the name of rationalization
of staff, ‘mainstreaming’ children, enhancing quality, increasing monitoring, improving pupil-
teacher ratio and providing a better learning environment However, contrary outcomes
were revealed from the field investigations. What the Research Team found in the study was
that at many places the merged schools were far beyond the 1 KM radius of the closed
school. That means there has been lack of uniformity in applying and interpreting the RTE
sections and the rules framed by the respective state governments.
In some cases, conditions in the merged upper primary and secondary schools itself was not
found to be child friendly which will only further alienate the small children who have different
needs. These mergers have made the access to school further difficult for populations who
are already on the margins. Therefore, no matter how vehemently the policy makers may
argue that this is a policy of ‘merger’ not ‘closure’, for many parents and children it has only
meant closure of their only option for schooling.
The macro implications of the policy of school closures and mergers are many.
• Schoolclosuresandmergersindeedseemtomakemanychildrendropoutastheschools
to which they were directed to continue their schooling were at a distance. The measure
thus may add to the problem of non-attendance and eventual drop-out of children.
• Closuresarebothacauseandaconsequenceoftheprocessofprivatisationofschooling
in educationally advanced districts and urban centres. They affect the economic under-
privileged class than the privileged class. The economically better off manage to move to
a private school in the event of closure whereas the dis-privileged would remain in the
margins or would be further pushed beyond even the margins.
• Theschoolclosureshaveaseriousimplicationforgenderequalityineducationalaccess.
As is observed, closures have led the girl students to drop out as parents were reluctant
to continue the education of the girl children. This means that the girls will be much
more vulnerable to be married off earlier than before as they are now out of school and
families would like to get them married.
• Thesections3and8oftheRTEmakeitmandatoryfortheGovernmenttoprovidefree
and compulsory education to every child. The section 8(b) entails the state to ensure
availability of a neighbourhood school and 8(c) ensures that the child belonging to
weaker sections and the child belonging to disadvantaged group are not discriminated
against and prevented from pursuing and completing elementary education on any
grounds. Both 8 (b) and (c) are clearly violated as the state withdrew the neighbourhood
school for children in their own locality no matter what it interprets as neighbourhood
in its subsequent Rules of implementation of RTE. What we argue here is that the basic
spirit of the RTE is compromised by manipulating the spirit of the Act in the form of Rules
or policies such as closure/merger.
Executive Summary
Picture 1: Closed Harijanbasti School, Sahdoli, Alwar, Rajasthan
1 Further, there were schools where there were no children, but teachers continued to be on pay rolls under that school’s name. Similarly, there were
schools where there have been greater enrolments of children and yet the number of teachers was less thereby leading to a collapse of teaching –
learning process.
The year 2009 marked a watershed in the educational journey of the Nation. It was when
the Nation embarked on making the commitment of the fundamental Right to Education
(RTE) to the people of India. With the collective struggles, international pressures and the
domestic necessity, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009
came into operation on April 1, 2010, making it imperative to the State to provide free and
compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6 to 14 years. However, the journey
of implementation of the RTE Act has not been smooth ever since it was promulgated and is
fought with a number of impediments to make it a reality to achieve the national objective
of universal literacy.
Though the RTE Act 2009 set a national framework, there have been multiple interpretations
of the Act at the state levels which made the Act literally diluted and loose tenacity and
rigour. States interpreted the implementation guidelines of the Act differently to suit their
situations, requirements and possibilities. Variations across states pertain to provisions of
physical access, teacher – pupil ratios, teacher deployments, implementation of 25% quota of
seats for disadvantaged and economically weaker section children in private unaided schools,
education of drop-out and never enrolled children, participation of civil society organisations
in the educational provision, educational opportunities for disabled children, etc.
Added to these, various state governments initiated a process of closing down a large number
of primary schools in the name of rationalisation process whereby the state drew a policy of
appropriating teacher deployment in terms of teacher-pupil ratios. The economic feasibility
to utilise a teacher’s service in the most optimal manner by putting them together rather
than distributing them in single or double teacher schools or low enrolment schools has
been the guiding principle for this rationalisation process. Moreover, it is also said that there
is a necessity to modernise and equip schools by devising newer methods of governance and
supervision under what several state governments called as ‘model’ schools and ‘residential’
schools in the name of attaining good quality of education. Thus, this meant that schools
which recorded low enrolments are now to be subjected to closure and are then re-drafted
in the name of ‘merger’ with another school nearby1.
What this process of ‘closure’ and ‘mergers’ has done is that it has diluted the notion of
‘neighbourhood’ school, which the RTE has so eloquently emphasised. In fact, it rolled back
the gains accrued under District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) and Sarva Shiksha
Abhiyan (SSA) which promised physical access to school for every habitation, namely the
‘neighbourhood’. The number of elementary schools has tremendously increased in the
entire country (in all states) ever since 1994-95, the year DPEP came into implementation.
Chapter 1
During the period 2000-01 to 2013-14, the number of schools with only primary section
has increased from 638,738 in 2000-01 to 858,916 in 2013-14 and the number of schools at
the upper primary level increased from 206,269 in 2000-01 to 589,796 in 2013-142. As on
2013-14, MHRD Report (2014) suggests that about 98 percent of rural habitations have a
primary school within a distance of 1KM. Similarly, the enrolment in primary education has
increased from 113.8 million to 132.4 million, marking a whopping 18.9 million in almost 14-
year period. The enrolment at upper primary education increased from 42.8 million to 66.5
million, marking an increase of 23.7 million (ibid).
The historically marginalised social groups such as scheduled castes, tribes, religious
minorities and girls too have shown tremendous progress in terms of enrolments at all levels
of education. In primary education, the enrolments of children from disadvantaged groups
match the most privileged, but by the time they arrive at standard five, their numbers seem
to dwindle. For example, the MHRD Report (2014) documents that between 2000-01 and
2013-14, the enrolment of SC children in primary education increased from 21.2 million to
26.3 million, marking an increase of 24.1 percent in just one decade (p.32). Similarly, the
enrolment of ST children in primary education during the same decade has increased from
11 million to 14.7 million, registering 33.6 percent of increase (MHRD 2014: p. 38). At the
upper primary level too, both SCs and STs have registered significant progress (from 6.7
million to 12.9 million in the case SCs and from 3.1 million to 6.5 million in the case of STs)
during 2000-01 to 2013-14 (ibid: p. 33 and p. 38).
In terms of gross enrolment ratios in the entire elementary education sector, there has been
a steep increase from 86.8 percent in 2000-01 to 107.7 percent in 2013-14 in the case of SCs
(ibid: p. 36) and from 88 percent in 2000-01 to 105.52 percent in 2013-14 in the case of STs
(ibid: p. 41). It may be noted that GERs crossing 100 percent is due to the enrolment of under-
aged or over-aged children in that particular standard segment. Interestingly, the MHRD
Report (2014) does point out an increase in the GER of girls in comparison to boys among
SCs, substantially higher for SC girls than that of the SC boys (48.6 percent for SC girls and
18.8 percent for SC girls). That means, the parents and communities from among the SCs
and STs are enrolling their children, both boys and girls, in the elementary (both primary and
upper primary) school and are exhibiting eagerness to make them literate and educated.
However, in the case of STs, there has been a decline of 2.5 percent points for boys, whereas
for girls, there has been an increase of 26.4 percentage points during 2000-01 to 2013-14.
Overall gains achieved on the primary education enrolment front lead an overall shift in
the policy thrust from mere provision of access to the provision of good quality education
for all. It is argued that the children must not only go to school but also receive good
quality education. This demands that the Governments effect reforms around rationalisation
of investment of resources (financial and human). However, the policy re-thinking began
to churn governments at the Centre and the States as to how to re-deploy resources to
maximise returns and also what they assume to be an appropriate and rational manner
2 Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD), Government of India, 2014. Education for All: Towards Quality with Equity, India. NUEPA: New
Delhi, p. xvii.
in which resource distribution and imbalances in educational facilities could be tackled in
order to achieve the ‘quality education for all’. This is also one of the key dimensions of the
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) too. Thus, the top-down supply approach of DPEP
and SSA is reframed in the post 2010, when RTE had actually came into implementation.
Under this policy, small schools in terms of enrolment that are economically unviable to
provide quality infrastructure are put together through a policy of consolidation or ‘merger’.
Govinda (2016) too reinforces this argument:
‘In fact, majority of the primary schools in the country have less
than 100 children enrolled. This includes substantial proportion of
schools that have less than 50 students or even less than 25 students.
A progressive policy of consolidation has to be put in place as the
situation is going to become even more challenging with the swift
demographic shift taking place in many parts of the country; with
the falling birth rate, the cohort entering primary schools has begun
shrinking and the trend is likely to gain further momentum in the years
to come’3(p.8).
Govinda defends his argument further, calling for a new policy thrust:
‘Such a policy of consolidation has to clearly move towards new
framework for establishing new schools as well as combining the
existing ones to create viable schools of good quality. This would also
demand examining alternate means of facilitating participation of
children through provision of transportation and residential facilities’
Though we desist from drawing overall conclusion that Govinda’s thinking actually led to
the closure and merger policy formulation in different states, but his words seem to reflect
the dominant education policy thinking at least among the states that the Team had visited.
The following contention of Govinda is also a significant policy pointer: ‘the question of
equipping every school with adequate material and human resources should be determined
based on the local parameters such as size and location of the school and the accessibility to
neighbouring habitations. It may not be desirable to fix a national norm in this regard’ (ibid).
Different states have formulated different parameters to effect closures of government
schools, but the overall scenario presents a clear case of withdrawal of the government
from the provision of elementary education. Interestingly, and paradoxically, the policy of
school closures was rolled out after the country committed itself to guarantee the Right to
Education to every child.
The first reports of school closures have begun to appear right after the first three years
of implementation of the RTE, namely, after 2013-14. The process of consolidation of school
3 Govinda R. 2016. Transforming Indian School Education: Policy Concerns and Priorities’, Yojana, January Issue, pp. 7-10.
provision led to, as mentioned
earlier, the formulation of what
several states began to call as
policies of ‘rationalisation’ of
teacher-pupil ratios4. This process
had taken concrete shape by
August 2014 in most states. It
began with the closure of the
unrecognised unaided private
schools after the expiry of three-
year grace period given to these
schools for seeking recognition,
and is followed by a massive
closure of the government
schools ever since 2014. Today, it
is said that more than a 100,000
schools are closed across the
country and many more are in
the line of closure. However, it is
difficult to verify the authenticity
of this number. Going by the
volume of numbers of schools
closed in different sections of media and the figures quoted by the RTE Forum (a network of
civil society organisations), there is some truth in the volume and extent of school closures
across the country5.
Such policy reforms in the name of rationalisation and consolidation may be contested.
For instance, the excitement of gains in the enrolments fizzle-out when one observes drop-
out rates at the elementary stage. Nearly or above 50 percent of those who enter into
elementary school leave before completing that stage. Some analysts claim that inspite of
such high levels of drop-out, there indeed was a decline of drop-out rates over the years.
However, this justification does not help in achieving the overall goal of universalization of
elementary education and equal and fundamental right to education, thus it continues to be
a major hurdle for the country to claim provision of basic education for all its children.
Most importantly, high drop-out rates and low retention rates accentuate as children move
up the education ladder. For children coming from SC and ST homes, this means that they
remain mostly non-literate or poorly literate and thus will continue to be marginal or
disadvantaged. It is also a reality that the remote dalit and tribal hamlets are served only
by the government schools, closure will only exacerbate educational deprivations further. It
is in this context, the present study of the impact of policy of school closures and mergers
must be seen.
School Closures/Mergers across
Different States
According to RTE Forum’s report (The Hindu
August 9, 2015), a large number of schools
in Rajasthan (17,129), Gujarat (13,450),
Maharashtra (13,905), Karnataka (12,000),
Andhra Pradesh (5,503), Odisha (5,000),
Telangana (4,000), Madhya Pradesh (3,500),
Tamil Nadu (3,000), Uttarakhand (1,200),
Punjab (1,170) and Chhattisgarh (790) – a
total of 80,647 schools – were either merged or
closed down till 2014. Interestingly, excluding
a few educationally advanced states such as
Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka,
most of the states where closures are taking
place are educationally backward states. This
is what is surprising as most of these states,
as per the 2011 Census, are below or just
around the national average of literacy rate.
4 Though the process of rationalization of some sort existed earlier too, the current process is significantly different. Now the logic is wholly economic
viability and not the larger concern of social and physical access, which was the case in the times of, say, DPEP and SSA.
5 The data on the extent of closures in presented in subsequent sections of this Report.
a) To understand the process of school closures/ mergers,
b) To know the causes and consequences of school closure/ merger process
c) To know the implications of school mergers/ closures and to explore the impact of
mergers and closures on the educational attainments and aspirations of children,
particularly of disadvantaged backgrounds.
d) To understand infringement of child’s right to education as a result of school
closures and mergers
1. To investigate the way the policies of closures and mergers are made and are
interpreted in different states. What are the justifications and motives behind
school closures and mergers?
2. To study the profiles of habitations where schools are closed and what are the
contexts and conditions for closure in those habitations?
3. To understand the role of community/ parents and School Management
Committees (SMCs, hereafter) in the overall decision making pertaining to school
4. To study how closures affected parents/children’s access to education and what
strategies did they adopt to access schooling after closure/merger?
5. To study ways in which school closures impacted educational attainments,
aspirations and prospects of children from socially and educational backward
communities such as Dalits (Scheduled Castes), adivasis (Scheduled Tribes),
minorities, girls and the rural populations.
6. To study the Governmental supports and facilitation provided to the parents and
children to continue schooling.
7. To investigate if mergers have improved or deprived school participation of
children affected by closures.
8. To assess both macro and micro impacts of closures and mergers and to examine
if the policy of closures and mergers contravene provisions of the Right to
Education Act.
Chapter 2
Objectives and the
Methodological Approach
Objectives and the Methodological Approach
Criteria for selection of districts
1. High literacy district and a low literacy
2. Higher Female literacy rate and lower
literacy rate
3. Population of SCs, STs and Minorities
4. Extent of urbanization, development and
The preliminary information available through the media reports suggested that the
issue of school closures and mergers is widespread. As stated in the previous section,
it had affected several states across the country. Since the issue is highly politically
sensitive, the actual data pertaining to the number of school closures is not publicised.
So, the Research Team had no credible information as to how to go about the selection
of the states and districts for the study. The Team had some unsubstantiated claims of
the national RTE Forum regarding the numbers of schools closed in some states to
begin with. Often states also use the term ‘merger’ to imply ‘closure’ to camouflage
the intent of closure which then complicated the sample selection.
Under these circumstances, the Team decided to select three states, which are
educationally not very advanced as the issue of closures may affect those states
most, because it is here the reality of providing basic Right to Education to every
eligible child is a distant dream. The states selected are expected to possess literacy
rate close to or below the national average and definitely not above it. Keeping in
view this objective, the study selected Rajasthan in the north, Telangana in the south
and Odisha in the east.
From among all the
three states, an attempt
was made to select two
contrasting districts6
depending on the
population composition
(such as SC/ST/Minority
populations), overall
literacy rates as well as
female literacy rates.
Based on these criteria
two districts were chosen in each state - a better performing district in terms of
literacy and a low performing one for comparison of contexts. It is expected that
these two different contexts may have different causes as well as impacts of school
closures and mergers.
Annexure 1 shows the district wise literacy rates of the three states selected for
the study. From each list, the districts that were chosen for the site visits have been
6 In Telangana, three districts were selected by the Team which includes one each district from high, medium and low literacy levels as this was the
first state to be covered for the field visits and the Team wanted to see divergent contexts in the state.
In Telangana, Mahbubnagar
with the lowest literacy rate of
55.04 percent was chosen. It is
the largest district in the state
with the highest rural population
(85.01 per cent). For the purpose
of comparison, Rangareddy
district with 70 per cent urban
population and with second
highest literacy rate of 75.87 per
cent in the state was selected.
In the case of Telangana, a third
district, Medak, was also selected.
Although in terms of overall
literacy, Medak figures in the middle range with 62 per cent it is a district lagging
behind on other yardsticks. The district has the second lowest literacy rates for both
SCs and STs. Additionally, the drop-out rate in the district is the second highest in
the state, next to Mahbubnagar. According to the Human Development Report of
Telangana7, Medak district “has the lowest HDI in the state, and has dropped from
the 9th rank during 2000-05 to the last position during 2011-12” (p.52). ODISHA
In Odisha, the two districts
selected are Khurda and Koraput.
Again, as per the rationale set
for selecting districts, one is a
highly urbanised district and
the other is a remote and rural
district. Khurda is in coastal
Odisha and Koraput falls in the
western region which lags behind
other districts in terms of socio-
economic development. Khurda
has the highest literacy rate and
Koraput figures in the bottom
three. The female literacy rate of
the district is also appallingly low at 38.55 per cent. In addition to this, 50.7 percent
of total population in Koraput is Scheduled Tribes.
7 Human Development in Telangana State published by Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS), 2015
Objectives and the Methodological Approach
State Duration
Telangana 6th January to 13th January 2016
Odisha 28th January to 3rd February 2016
Rajasthan 18th February to 26th February 2016 RAJASTHAN
In the state of Rajasthan, Alwar,
a high literacy district, and
Banswara,which appears in the
bottom, are selected. Alwar is
the third most populous district
in the state and has a multi-
community character. The district
has significant proportion of
Meo Muslim, tribal and the other
backward and general caste
composition. Alwar is the fifth
highest literacy district among
all 33 districts of the state with 71.68 percent. Banswara is not only a low literacy
district, it also lags behind in terms of overall development. It is the fourth from
below in terms of literacy rate (57.20 percent). In terms of female literacy rate too,
these two districts show a sharp contrast. Alwar makes an interesting case as it had
been in the forefront of a large number of Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO)
interventions campaigns such as Bodh, Lok Jumbish, Shiksha Karmi, etc. which had
generated a fair amount of demand for education. It in fact had overcome the burden
of being one of the most backward districts in terms of literacy twenty years back to
being one of the top five districts of the state of Rajasthan.
In all the three states covered under the study, an attempt is made to select at least
two closed schools and two merged schools in each district. That means, in each state,
at the minimum, four closed schools and four merged schools are selected (details
are given under section 5 of the Report under the head ‘Profiles of the Sites Visited’).
The selection of the school sites is made keeping in view the geographical uniqueness
and social relevance. The team was mainly guided by the advice and suggestions of
the district and state level functionaries of Save the Children.
The Team spent 7 to 8 days in each state to collect data from both the state Head
Quarters and the actual field sites in two districts selected for the study.
Sri Ganganagar
The following stakeholders are covered for the purposes of data collection in each
• Functionariesofdepartmentofschooleducationatthestate/district/blocklevels.
• StatelevelagenciesandfunctionariesoverseeingimplementationofRTE
• NationalandInternationalNGOs/localCBOsengagedintheimplementationof
RTE - both at the national level and also the regional levels.
• Members of civil society and intelligentsia who exhibited keen interest in
educational futures of people
• Teachers/Principals/ Head Master/Head Mistresses of schools (closed and
• Membersoftheteachers’unionsandcivillibertiesmovements.
• Chairpersons or Members of the Village Panchayat/ School Management
Committee/ influential members of the villages where schools are closed as well
as where schools are merged.
• Parentsofchildrenofschoolgoingageinthelocalitieswhereschoolsareclosed
and merged
• Childrenaffectedbyschoolclosures/mergers.
The study employed mainly qualitative techniques of data collection. The Research
Team undertook quick social mapping of the villages and school sites visited. An
attempt was made to quickly capture village profiles(general/social/educational),
identify key informants and conduct in-depth interviews with them. Besides, the team
prepared village level maps (social and educational) which have given the Team a
sense of both issues of access and availability of educational infrastructure and also
the needs of different segments of the village.
The major technique used for getting the village level data was through participatory
research methods such as Participatory Research Appraisal (PRA); Focus Group
Discussions (FGDs), informal interviews with the key informants. Formal interviews
were also conducted with the state level directors of school education, senior officers
of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, State Councils of Educational Research and Training,
District Institutes for Educational Training, officers at the district level (Collectors
and District Magistrates, SSA Coordinators and Project Directors, District Education
Officers (DEOs) and Assistant or Deputy DEOs). Attempts were also made to meet
and discuss with the Block and Mandal level education functionaries to discuss
relevant issues.
Objectives and the Methodological Approach
Besides official sources, an attempt was made to interview RTE activists at the state,
district and block/ mandal8 levels. The interviews were mainly free-flowing, but with
the help of an interview guide which was prepared before embarking on the field
visits. A trial/test/pilot study was run during the visit to first district, namely, Medak in
Telangana, and items in the interview guide were modified to fit the coverage of the
study as stated in the ToR post pilot testing.
The Research Team had used visual and audio tools to capture the data collected
from stakeholders. Almost all the interviews and site visits are either audiographed
or videographed and were transferred to the computer for capturing the authentic
and reliable transcription of the data. Oral permissions were sought from the
subjects whose interactions the Research Team had captured on video or audio
mode. Transcriptions for all the three states were developed and this synthesis report
is made out of all such data developed.
8 In Telangana, the equivalent of Block is Mandal, which is above the village level local self government.
While the school closures and mergers are effected across India, there is neither a co-
herent nor a well defined policy at the national level. Different states are setting their
own criteria for identification of schools for closing and merging. In fact, different phrases
and terms like ‘mainstreaming’ of children, ‘amalgamation’ of schools, ‘integration’ are used
as part of the official language of policy to mean ‘closures’. What is common across the three
states -Telangana, Odisha and Rajasthan - is that the policies and the implementing officials
emphasize and project the entire exercise as a process of ‘merger’, and not the ‘closure’ of
schools without making it explicit that ‘merger’ into one school inherently implies ‘closure’
of another. Merger of schools is taking place in the name of rationalization of staff, ‘main-
streaming’ of children, enhancing quality, putting monitoring and supervision of schools in or-
der, improving pupil-teacher ratios and providing better learning environments for children.
Whether these goals are realized or not will be discussed later in the subsequent sections.
In the three states where the study was undertaken, the enrolment norm set for
selection of schools that are to be closed are varied.
3.1.1. ODISHA
In Odisha, the order issued by OPEPA mentions that the primary and upper primary
schools which are running with zero or five or less than five children enrolment are
found to be unviable and the grants provided to these schools were lying unutilized
with the SMCs for a long period. Therefore, the state had effected a decision to merge
what it calls ‘non-optimal’ schools with nearby schools. Following this enrolment
norm, about 165 primary
schools are closed so
far. Highest number of
school closures occurred
in Gajapati (16) and
Kandhamal (17) districts.
Interestingly, these two
districts fall in the bottom
ten of low literacy
districts in the state
(Annexure 2).
As per the policy of the
Odisha Government,
the children of selected
Chapter 3
Odisha: Norms for Mainstreaming
1. Phase I (Already executed): Schools with
enrolment of 5 or less than 5 children to
be mainstreamed (merged) with a nearby
school. Transport and escort facility is
promised to be provided to the children.
2. Phase II (under consideration): Schools
with enrolment of 10 or less than 10
children to be mainstreamed (merged)
with a nearby school.
Policy Perspective:
Rationale Norms and Practices
Policy Perspective: Rationale Norms and Practices
9 No.2365 (30)/Access/15/ M (CEGSCF) - 319, dated 27.02.2015.
10 G.O.Ms.No.6, dated 27.09.2014
schools are to be mainstreamed’ in the nearest schools and if the schools are
closed in tribal areas and inaccessible remote regions, then alternative arrangements
are to be ensured through transport or escort facility to bring the children to school.
In this process, it is proposed to attach a Shikya Sahayak to ensure the transition
from the closed to mainstreamed schools. The cluster in-charges or coordinators are
directed to take personal responsibility to ensure that the children who are enrolled
in the school, which is closed down, do not drop out.
The office order9 of the Odisha Primary Education Programme Authority (OPEPA)
outlines the following other stipulations:
1. Villagers are to be assured that, if there are required numbers of children, the
school will start operating again.
2 Teachers posted in the sub-optimal (closed) schools are to be posted to the
nearest school where children are mainstreamed so that children of the closed
school will get more attention and benefit.
3. Infrastructure created if any is to be handed over to the concerned Gram
Panchayat and as per the requirement of the villagers, infrastructure is to be
One of the reasons officials and policy makers in the state gave was that the ‘sub-
optimal’ schools can’t form SMCs as children are less than the required number
to constitute an SMC, namely, 12-18 members. This, according to them, called for
In Telangana, the government initially issued an order in September 201410 seeking
rationalization of teachers and merging of schools with zero enrolment based on
U-DISE data (2013-14). The order does not use the language of closure of schools
but rather sets “norms for rationalization of teacher posts and staff”. Criteria for
rationalization are as following:
• Schoolswithoutanyenrolmenttobemergedtonearbyschool.
• Schools with1-19enrolmenttobemergedwithotherprimaryschoolwithina
walking distance of one KM of neighbourhood areas.
• Intribalareas,theschoolswithoutenrolmentorwith1-19enrolmenttobemerged
with the nearby schools including schools under Tribal Welfare Department and
posts shall be shifted to the respective managements. In case there is no tribal
school in the nearby area, the school may be continued if the enrolment is at least
• Surplus teachers to be shifted to a needy primary or upper primary school
(emphasis added).
In this case, merger mainly means merging the teacher of the zero enrolment school
with that of another school in the vicinity. That means, merger acquires another
meaning in the state of Telangana and it is mainly in terms of teacher re-deployment.
The same staffing pattern norms are applicable to primary sections running within
upper primary school premises. In the case of classes VI to VII / VIII if the enrolment
is between 1-19 then it should be identified and merged with other upper primary
schools within a distance of 3 KMs of neighbourhood area.
If 1-19 enrolment slab is taken as the criteria, then out of 19,772 total primary schools
in the State about 4000 would be closed( Annexure3). When the order in question,
G.O No. 6, was strongly opposed by the civil society organizations like Save Education
Committee11, the state RTE Forum, and the progressive teachers’ unions in Telangana,
the then Education Minister, G Jagdish Reddy, responded by saying that it was only
seeking ‘rationalization of teachersand not of the schools’ and no school would be
closed. However, rationalization of teachers based on the staffing pattern inherently
implies that a large number of schools with 1-19 enrolment are actually closed down
as no teacher is allotted there. The enrolment slab of 1-19 also indicates that most
of the schools operating in rural areas, particularly those in scattered and sparsely
populated habitations
mainly inhabited by
marginalized groups such
as Dalits and Adivasis,
will come under its ambit.
Following the protests,
the Government of
Telangana issued a fresh
order12, with amendments
made to the staffing pattern. As per this order, no school will be closed further and
schools with enrolment of 1-19 will be allotted one teacher while those with 20-60
will be given two teachers. The decision to merge zero enrolment schools, however,
remains unchanged.
Unlike Odisha government which mentions about provision of transport allowance
and ensuring children do not drop-out of school, at least on paper, Telangana’s merger
policy so far does not have any provision of transportation allowance or escort
In Odisha and Telangana, the initial proposal to merge schools and the enrolment
criteria were opposed which forced the policy makers to reverse their decisions. In
11 Save Education Committee submitted a memorandum to the government seeking a halt on the process of school closure.
12 G.O No.17 dated 27.6.2015
While the policy mandates that schools
should be merged with a primary or upper
primary school within 1 KM, evidence from
the field suggests that these norms were not
followed. Neither the process of merger took
place nor the so-called ‘merged’ school was
located within the radius of 1 KM
Policy Perspective: Rationale Norms and Practices
the case of Odisha, the initial proposal was to merge schools having less than 25
children on rolls, however, under the pressure from various civil society organizations,
the government reduced the number to 5 and less than 5. The decision, though, has
not been completely reversed. Rather it is being done in a calculated phased manner.
This is evident from the fact that the next phase of closure is already underway
where schools having less than 10 children would be closed/merged. Based on this
criterion, about 813 schools in the State of odisha facing the threat of closures and
an overwhelming number of these are in rural areas.
In Rajasthan’s case, there is a great deal of ambiguity around the norms laid down
to select schools for merger. According to the state officials two types of filters were
• Firstwastheenrolmentofchildrenand
• Secondwasthedistancefromthenearbysecondaryorhighersecondaryschool.
According to the Assistant Administrative Secretary (Primary Education) in
Department of School Education, primary school/s with less than 30 children,
following the RTE norm, were merged with the school situated within one KM range
and having the higher enrolments. So in a village, if there were three three primary
schools, they were merged into the one having maximum number of childrens. The
idea was to have at least 30 children. This according to them fulfilled the RTE norm.
What they were not concerned was that the other two habitations are deprived of
the schooling for the current as well as the future generations of children.
Second criterion is to merge primary and upper primary schools with secondary and
higher secondary schools. If a primary /upper primary school was running within the
same vicinity of a secondary and higher secondary or in the same premises these
primary schools are merged with secondary/higher secondary school to improve
their overall monitoring. These merged schools are declared as “Adarsh Vidhalaya”
or “Model Schools”. The idea is to develop one model school for each revenue village.
Therefore, enrolment and distance were two basic criteria for merger.
The nature of the merger also differs. In some cases, only administrative merger
took place and the primary school was brought under the governance of secondary/
higher secondary school management, namely, the Principal. In case of physical
merger, the school was shut down and the enrolment records, attendance registers,
resources, along with the teachers were shifted to a nearby ‘merged’ secondary/
senior secondary school.
In the first phase, 14,982 primary schools and 2096 upper primary schools-a total
of 17,078 schools - were proposed to be merged (as per the Budget proposals of
2014-15, under item number 152) with the secondary or senior secondary schools
13 Govt to merge 4,451 more schools in second phase. The Times of India. 26/02/2016
14 Deccan Herald, Jaipur, 19/06/2014
(Annexure 4). However,
after these mergers
were undertaken, several
complaints were filed
against the merger of
schools in certain areas
and a committee was set
up to look into this issue.
After looking into the
grievances 2,038 primary
and 368 upper primary
schools were de-merged.
Finally, in the first drive,
12,944 primary and 1,728
upper primary schools
were merged.
Therefore, the total
number of merger of
primary as well as
upper primary schools
in Rajasthan in the
first phase was 14,672.
However, like Odisha, a
second phase of mergers is already underway in Rajasthan in which 4,451 schools
are proposed to be merged13. According to an official of Department of Education,
Rajasthan,the next phase of closure will identify schools with 0-15 enrolments. As
per one newspaper report, there are around 8,164 schools which have enrolment
between 1-15 and 28,013 having enrolment between 16-30 children14.
In Telangana as well, the government has initiated a plan to ‘strengthen’ primary
schools by selecting a school as a ‘model’ school in each cluster. This is also a preclude
to the closure process. In each cluster within a kilometre radius the government is
planning to merge all primary schools. In the past, because of representation by
the people’s representatives, it is claimed that schools were granted without any
rationale and planning which had affected the quality of schools and also had put
enormous fiscal pressure on the State Government.
Under the rationalization scheme, according to a senior functionary of the Directorate
of School Education, Telangana State, the government seeks to merge schools
and allocate one teacher per class in such Model Schools. According to him, the
government is also proposing to provide transport facility to the children. This entire
Rajasthan’s Adarsh Vidyalaya (Model School)
Scheme is visualised to improve quality
of schooling in the state. In the budget
announcement of 2015-16, the Chief Minister
of Rajasthan announced this Model School
scheme. The Model Schools will be promoted
and shaped as Centres of Excellence and
serve as mentor schools and resource centres
for other schools.
Under this scheme, the schools will have
access to basic facilities like classrooms, a
library, laboratories, drinking water facilities
and toilets in adequate measure (emphasis
added). Computers and internet connections
will also be provided. A budget of Rs. 2.38
billion is earmarked and will be carried out
in three phases. About 9,842 gram panchayat
schools are expected to be upgraded to a
Model School by 2017-18. Out of these only
80 schools are designated for girls only.
Policy Perspective: Rationale Norms and Practices
exercise of selecting and generating data about mergers is expected to be completed
in the current academic year. According to Director of School Education, Telangana,
the Government is drawing out plans for further rationalization of teachers as per
the 2015-16 U-DISE data. And going by this kind of policy thrust in the state of
Telangana, there is a possibility of increase in the overall numbers of schools closed
or to be closed.
Telangana government’s policy of school closures does not indicate any possibility of
re-opening or de-merger if the enrolment is increased or the community protests. In
Odisha, the policy assures that if there is an increase in the number of students the
school will start operating.
The official policy in Rajasthan, however, lists conditions under which the merged
school can be demerged. An order dated 19.9.2014 states that:
• Inthehillyandremoteregionswhereanotherschoolmaynotbeavailablewithin
1 KM range, existing schools will not be merged.
• Ifatallamergertakesplace,thegovernmentisconsideringaproposaltoprovide
transport vouchers.
• If there is protest by the community then a previously merged school will be
• For tribal habitations and difcult areas, if a model school is builtbymerging
schools in a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe region, but if in between these
two schools there is a hill, forest, railway line, national highway, river and canal
and it is difficult to go to these schools then these schools will be demerged.
• TheGovernmentOrderinRajasthanstatesthatasperRTEthereshouldbeone
primary and one upper primary school within 1 KM and 2 KM range respectively.
If the merger violates these norms, then the school should be demerged.
• Further,schoolshouldbemergedwithamodelschoolinthesamerevenuevillage
and only in case of zero enrolment schools, the said school can be merged with a
model school in another revenue village.
Only in the case of Odisha, a definite policy of transport allowance is available15.
The policy states that the children of the closed schools who are admitted to the
nearby schools with a distance of more than 5 KMs are to be given preference for the
transport or escort provisions. This in itself is a serious vilation of the norms of RTE
15 Letter no 7570 (24) /Access/15, dated 03/07/2015, issued by the Odisha Primary Education Programme Authority.
Picture 2: Closed Mohamadabad Village School, Medak, Telangana
Act. Similarly, the children residing in the habitations located in deep forest areas are
also envisaged to be provided with transport facilities as there is a fear of wild animals
obstructing their paths. In addition to this, facilities are also to be made available to
children during rainy season as they may face difficulties in commuting. It mentions
that the transportation allowances are to be transferred through bank accounts
of parents and not to be paid in cash. In the states of Rajasthan and Telangana, a
proposal to provide transport vouchers is under consideration.
Policy Perspective: Rationale Norms and Practices
With respect to authenticity of data, several issues came up. In Telangana, for example,
some officials and activists were of the opinion that teachers may sometimes fudge
the enrolment data keeping his/her own interest in mind to get a school closed and move to
a school of his/her own choice. However, in Rajasthan, contrarily, it is said that the teachers
sometimes increase the enrolments to prevent the school from closure. Interestingly, the DISE
data which becomes the basis for identifying schools and their enrolments is solely provided
by the teacher. How many officials actually go for physical verification of the schools for
checking the veracity of that data is doubtful.
It has also been pointed by the
civil society organizations that
the enrolment norm is not strictly
followed. For example, in Odisha,
civil society organisations suggest
that there are many schools with
more than five enrolments which
were closed. Also, listing of schools
is often not done in a proper
manner and thus in most of the
cases the figures which form basis
for closures are vague.
Table 1 presents the number of actual government claims and the possible number of closures
if we go by the criteria set for the closures and mergers. The numbers are certainly not what
the Government claims, rather they seem to be gigantic.
Of all the states, Odisha has a very negligible number of closures so far, but the possible
number and the number of schools that are at the verge of being closed makes it a very
significant number. In the case of Telangana, the official claims appear to be far from the fac-
tual. The numbers are far more than what has been released to the public scrutiny. Though
the schools are closed practically due to low enrolments, the teachers draw salaries in the
name of the schools which are closed. For all official purposes, these low enrolment schools
actually are not closed as the teacher continues to draw salary, but in reality they aren’t
present in that school.
In Rajasthan, literally all primary schools are at the verge of closure as the government is
about to merge primary schools into secondary and senior secondary schools in the name
of better governance and quality. In a few years from now, the state and the communities
will not have any primary school in the neighbourhood and the young children of 6-10 years
Chapter 4
If a teacher is working in a tanda (a tribal
hamlet), since it is located far away, he or she
would want to come out of the school. So s/he
would show low enrolment by striking off the
names of children who are absent. Community
never gets to know what is happening until
the school closes down. Simply based on the
teacher’s data schools are closed down.
SCERT, Telangana
Authenticity of Data-Ofcial and
Actual Closures / Mergers
Table 1: Number of Schools Closed and Merged – Data Ambiguity
Actual (as per DISE data)
(If we apply the set criteria)
In 2015-16, about 32,940 gov-
ernment schools are there in
Rajasthan, which face merger
with secondary / senior sec-
ondary schools. That means,
the idea of neighbourhood
school gets diluted altogether
as the secondary/senior sec-
ondary schools are located
not within 1KM, but in a radius
not less than 3-5 KM radius in
many habitations/areas.
No. of schools closed
17,078 (Final:
a. Schools with 0 enrolment
b. Schools with 0-20 enrolment
c. Schools with 0 teachers
Total possible closures (b+c)
Schools with 0-5 enrolment
Schools with 0-10 enrolments
(proposed to be closed)
Level I (Schools with less than
30 children/Schools within 1KM
radius/ PS/UPS merged with
secondary/senior secondary
Level II (proposed) (Merger with
Secondary/senior Secondary
Authenticity of Data-Official and Actual Closures / Mergers
would have to mostly walk for 1-3 KM in terrains that generally are difficult. This has greater
implications for the delivery of RTE in the state.
Proles of Sites Visited
Of all the districts in Telangana, Mahbubnagar presents a grim picture of education
with the lowest literacy rate of 55.04 per cent (Census 2011). The Scheduled Castes
(SCs) constitute 17.10 per cent of total population while the Scheduled Tribes (STs)
constitute 7.93 per cent. Among the SCs, Madigas and Malas have a high population
while among STs, Lambadas/Sugalis are more in number in the district. Around 67 per
cent of the workforce in thedistrictare engaged in agriculture. Cotton is produced
by large number of farmers and children are deployed in the fields for the task of
plucking. According to an NGO official, at the time of cotton cultivation, around 30-
35 per cent of school going children are engaged in the fields. Parents argue that they
don’t have enough money to recruit labour and hence they send their own children
to work on the fields.
Mahbubnagar features in the list of 280 backward districts in the country. The
backwardness of this district is attributed to extreme poverty, malnutrition, prevalence
of gender based discrimination and superstitious beliefs and practices. It is important
to note that Mahbubnagar also has a high population of differently abled persons16.
Child marriage seems to be still prevalent in this district.
In Medak, 76% of the population lives in rural areas and agriculture is the source
of livelihood for about 69 per cent. While SCs constitute 17.73 percent of the total
population, STs have a population of 5.57 per cent.
Rangareddy district, on the other hand, is an urbanised district, whose Head Quarters
is based in the state capital, Hyderabad, itself. The literacy rates are high for all
groups in the district in comparison to other districts in Telangana (See Annexure 1).
Rural-Urban literacy rates too fare far better than the other two districts visited for
the study.
In Mahbubnagar, Balabhadraipalle village in Kosgi Mandal was chosen as a site
for the study. Balabhadraipalle village has three habitations, Balabhadraipalle,
Dhanamma Tanda and Oddukindi Tanda. Two primary schools were closed -one each
in Dhanamma Tanda and Oddukindi Tanda and both happen to be tribal hamlets,
home to Lambadas. The tribal hamlets or ‘Tandas’17 as they are called in Telangana
Chapter 5
16 Some of the reasons behind this include resistance to modern medicine/facilities and the continuing practice of delivering children at home and poor
sanitation. In addition to this, as the parents are away for work most of the time, children are left alone and often get neglected. Malnutrition, heavy
consumption of toddy (local liquor) by both men and women especially among the tribes including pregnant women and consanguineous marriages
were cited as other reasons.
17 Some Lambada women continue to wear their traditional attire, a ‘ghaghra/petia’ or skir t and colourful upper bodice called ‘kanchali’ which is
embroidered and sequined. Tandas are isolated from the main village and are located on beautiful but at the same time inaccessible terrains. The
Lambadas in these tandas largely depend upon cultivation for their livelihoods.The community depends on rainwater for irrigation purposes and water
shortage seems to be a major issue for the tanda settlers. Bore wells seemed to be the only source of drinking water.While many households still
don’t have toilets, dish antennas were visible. The houses are pukka houses with thatched roofs. In-house toilets are yet to be constructed and most
people continue to go to defecate in the fields.
Table 2: List of sites visited in Telangana
Closed Schools Said to have merged
Private Schools closed
1. Mohamadabad PS
2. Narsingh tanda
Primary School
(closed, but
reopened after a
gap of six months)
3. Oddukindi tanda PS
4. Dhanamma tanda
5. Kojjaguda PS
6. Kachireddyguda PS
1. Nagulpally PS
2. Balabhadraipalle
3. Elwarthy UPS
1. Day Spring School,
2. Vijayabhaskar
Value High School,
are largely inhabited by the Lambada tribes. Each Tanda consists of about 30-40
In Medak, the main Mohamadabad village, at 2 KM distance away from Narsingh
Tanda a primary school stands closed. As mentioned earlier, Mohamadabad is a
multi-caste village comprising members of Dalit and backward castes such as Malas
and Madigas. The settlement of these communities are segregated on caste differences,
for instance, a road divides the settlement of Malas and Madigas. The villagers are
mainly engaged in agriculture and wage earning (EGS scheme). Migration seems
to be high in these two districts. As per census 2001, 6.15 percent of the men had
migrated from the Telangana districts (Human Development Report of Telangana,
2015). Two popular destinations for people in these districts to migrate are Thane
and Pune in Maharashtra.
In Rangareddy district, Shankarpalle Mandal was selected. Shankarpalle has been the
epicentre of major NGO initiativesin education, mainly MV Foundation, for a long
time. Shankarpalle, because of its proximity to the city of Hyderabad, is an urbanised
mandal. The Mandal is mainly dominated by the Other Backward Classes, SCs and
the Muslim minorities. Along with agriculture, people of Shankarpalle are engaged in
the non-agricultural, commercial and industrial work. Water for irrigation is available
through bore wells.
The sites visited by the Team, Elwarthy, Kojjaguda and Kachireddy guda are inhabited
Profiles of Sites Visited
mostly by the OBCs and Dalits. Elwarthy’s proximity to Shankarpalle opens up many
options of private schooling for the people of Elwarthy and Kojjaguda. Kachireddyguda
is little interior and is inhabited by the Muslim and Dalit families. It is difficult to get
out of this village as it is three kilometres away from the main road which connects
to Shankarpalle. The only mode of transportation is one’s bicycles or bikes or auto
rickshaws. The Team had also visited Shankarpalle town to understand the closure
of private schools in the town.
5. 2. ODISHA
In Odisha, two districts were selected - Khurda (high literacy rate) and Koraput
(low literacy rate). Khurda district is one of the most advanced districts of Odisha.
It has the highest literacy of 86.9% (census, 2011) among all districts of Odisha. It
is an urbanised district which is close to or form part of the state capital territory,
Bhubaneswar. It has a male literacy rate of 91.78% and female literacy rate of 81.61%
(Census, 2011). This district fares well in the human development parameters too.
Khurda tops the Human Development Index in Odisha18. This district has villages
which are not scattered and are located close to each other. The population density
too is high in Khurda in comparison to other districts. Because of the high level of
development and urbanisation, the district witnessed greater proliferation of private
schools even in interior villages. But most of the private schools in remote areas
operate in small buildings lacking proper infrastructure.
Table 3. List of Schools Visited by the Team in Odisha
School Closed Merged School Private school visted
1. Raiguru Basudeipur
Primary School
2. Olarabindha
Primary School
3. Jhimikiguda
4. Jhatiguda
5. Ranginiguda
Primary School
(Closed and Re-
6. Mohammadan
Primary School
(Closed and Re-
1. Hirapur School UPS
2. Nagapur PS
3. Bisharpur UPS
4. Uparamania UPS
5. OMP School
6. Dhangidisahi PS
1. Navadiganta
Tapovana Vidyalaya
18 Human Development Report 2004 published by Planning and Coordination Department, Government of Orissa.
The second district selected for the visit is Koraput, which is one of the most backward
districts in Odisha. It has one of the lowest literacy rates (49.2%) in the state and
also across the country. The female literacy rate is very low (38.6%). Being one of
the backward districts of Odisha, Koraput fares very low in the social development
indicators too. Out of the thirty districts in Odisha, it is 27th, as per the Human
Development Report (2004). This district has a predominant ST population (50.6%).
Out of the 62 tribal groups that are found in Odisha, Koraput district is the home to
fifteen tribal groups like Paraja, Gadaba, Kondhs, Bhunjia, Bagata, Bhumia, etc. The
population in Koraput district are generally engaged in agriculture and forestry.
Except the Mohammadan School and the Dhangidisahi School which are located in
urban settings, all others are located in remote rural areas, difficult and mountainous
terrains. The villages are small, very clean and located in scattered habitations. Most
of the schools have good infrastructure and buildings. The Jhimikiguda school is
located in the foothills of a hill amidst cashew plantations and lush green vegetation
and has the best infrastructure in terms of school building. The nearest school from
Jhimikiguda school is Uparamania school which is a Save the Children project school
and also where the closed school children were asked to take enrolment as part of
so called ‘mainstreaming’ or merger.
The neighbourhoods of Mohammadan and the Dhangidisahi Schools in Jeypore town
of Koraput district are urban ghettos which are dominated by the Muslim families.
This place is named as Pathan Sahi, Petua Sahi, and Hyderabad Line because of the
dominance of Muslims. The lanes are very narrow and there are many schools nearby.
This area has also seen widespread privatization and there are many municipal and
private schools in and around these habitations.
It may be mentioned that the communities in and around the closed school of
Mohammadan PS have been demanding Urdu medium education for their children,
but there was and is no Urdu language instructor in the school for many years which
saw withdrawal of children from the school by the families. This withdrawal led to the
dropping of enrolments below 5 which culminated into closure of the school. However,
the community subsequently managed to garner support from parents and brought
in more than 5 children and got the school reopened by the Government. Today, it
has few more than 5 children, it does not however guarantee its continuation as the
State is preparing to close down schools with less than 10 children.
In Rajasthan, schools visited during the field visits are in the districts of Alwar and
Banswara.The District of Alwar has literacy rate of 71.8%, above the state average
of 66.11%. It ranks among the top five districts of the state in terms of literacy.
However, there are many regions of Alwar district which are dominated by SCs,
STs and religious minorities (Meo Muslims). The population of SCs and STs in rural
areasof Alwar district is 17.9 and 8.8 respectively. Meos form sizeable chunk in many
Profiles of Sites Visited
areas of Alwar district such as 37.79 per cent in Tijara and 38. 14 in Ramgarh19.
The Team had selected Thekda village in Ramgarh block which had significant
population of Meo community. The school there was closed even though it had 70
students and most of them are from Meo community. Their parents are mostly daily
wage labourers or farmers with small landholdings. Most of the children in the school
were first generation learners. The other village visited in Alwar was Harijanbasti in
Sahdoli block, where the school was closed.
The village has a mixed population of SC (Jatav) and Meos. Meos have roughly 175
households and SCs have around 70 households. The school is located outside the
SC colony and the children from poorer Meo families used to attend the school. This
school too had around 60-70 children when it was closed and merged with Sahdoli
Senior Secondary School.
The Team had also visited Bagadmeo PS and its merged school Bagadmeobudhagaon
in Ramgarh Block. Interestingly, Bagadmeo school too had a strength of around 70-
80 children and had about three teachers when it was closed/merged. The school
continues to run from its old premises as there was no classroom space for the
children who came from the closed school. The Team had also visited another closed
school in Makwanphala and its merged school in Chokdi which is a UPS. Makwanphala
is a habitation of Scheduled Tribe population, mostly Meena community and Chokdi
which is at 1 KM distance is mainly a mixed caste village with OBCs and the upper
castes such as Brahmins, Kshatriyas, etc.
Banswara district is another district selected for the site visits. It is one among the
lowest in terms of literacy rates in Rajasthan. It has a literacy rate of 57.2%, much
below the state average (66.11%).The sites visited in the district are in Ghatol and
Gangatadtarai blocks. Ghatol is comparatively better off in terms of economic well
being, water resources and irrigation facilities. Gangadtarai is a backward and remote
block in the district. Both the sites were highly dominated by Bhil population. The
schools visited by the Team in Ghatol block are Radapada and Thandapada primary
schools which were closed and a senior secondary school in Badipadal where both
these closed schools were merged.
The distance between the closed and merged schools is too long and commutation
can only be by a motorable vehicle. It is beyond the walkable distance for the young
kids. In Gangadatarai block, the Team visited Pataphala PS which was closed and
Handi UPS where the Pataphala school was merged. Pataphala is a very scattered
and remote habitation. The area was hilly and had no connecting roads in between
the habitations. The merged school (Handi) was 2 KMs away from Pataphala. The
difficult terrain of the area was visible in the hills and dry climate of the area.
19 See “Mewat: A region that is turning almost exclusively Muslim at the core” available at
Table 4: List of Schools Visited in Rajasthan
Closed Merged Private Unaided
1. Thekda PS
2. Harijanbasti
3. Makwanphala PS
4. Bagawali PS,
5. Bagadmeobudhagaon
6. Radapada
7. Thandapada UPS
8. Pataphala PS,
Gangadtarai block.
1. Nanglabanjirka
Senior Secondary
2. Senior Secondary
School, Sahdoli
3. Chokdi UPS
4. Bagadmeo Senior
Secondary School
5. Badipadal Senior
Secondary School,
6. Handi UPS,
Gangadtarai block
1. Vivekananda Vidya
Profiles of Sites Visited
While low enrolment was cited as the reason for closure of schools, this section delves
into more important question of why or how enrolments in fact declined in the sites
that the Team had visited in all the three states, which in turn had led to closures by the State
governments.This section addresses some of the following questions:
• Whyandhowenrolmentshavedeclined?
• Wherearethechildrengoingandtowhichschools?
• Are there still large number of out-of-school children inspite of the stated policy of
mergers and mainstreaming?
The field investigations revealed a vicious cycle of single/two classroom and/or single/double
teacher schools turning into so-called ‘zero’ or ‘low’ enrolment schools which eventually
led to the closure/merger of such schools. Most of the single or double teacher / classroom
schools even if they are currently above the stated enrolment requirement of the state
governments, they seem to be slowly getting into the trap and are emerging to be ‘at risk’,
waiting to be closed down. The Team visited one such school in Medak, Telangana, where
falling enrolment may soon bring it under the ambit of the criteria for closure/merger.
Apart from this, increasing privatization, particularly in case of urbanized districts, had led to
the decline in enrolments. Further, certain policies by the government itself such as opening
of ashram or residential schools in tribal areas, opening up of a model schools under the
Private Public Partnership Scheme and merger of many primary schools into such so-called
model schools, etc., have reduced the student strength in the rural primary schools.
The contexts and causes of school closures in more urbanized and developed districts
is different from the regions still untouched by development. The latter are largely
inhabited by marginalised and secluded or segregated populations whether they are
tribal, Dalit and minority community hamlets of Rangareddy or Mahbubnagar or
Medak districts in Telangana, or Khurda or Koraput districts in Odisha or Alwar or
Banswara districts in Rajasthan. These hamlets, Tandas (in Telangana) or Dhanis (in
Rajasthan) or Gudas (in Odisha), are clusters of 30-40 households, isolated from the
main Panchayat or Revenue village. In such inaccessible terrains, perhaps the primary
school and the Anganwadi centre20 are the only institutions that are located within
their reach. For accessing every other facility such as hospitals, banks, etc., the locals
have to travel to the nearest town or city. Hence, the size of the habitations themselves
Chapter 6
20 In some habitations anganwadis were also missing
Causes and Contexts
for School Closures
is so small that they might never conform to a uniformly applied yardstick, say, of 20
children or less in case of Telangana, 10 children in Odisha and about 30 children in
Secondly, in districts like Banswara and Mahbubnagar, inter-state and intra-state
migrations are taking place on a large scale which further reduces the number of
households in the habitation. The availability of children during a particular season
may be less or those children who are left behind with the grandparents or elder
siblings may not be actually attending schools. Another important factor that needs
to be taken into account is that due to the nature of these habitations many teachers
are hesitant to travel to these regions and teach there. As many schools in these
hamlets are single teacher schools, the teacher’s absence makes the school redundant.
Therefore, size of population in remote habitations and the existential conditions
determine the low enrolment in the schools. However, this is not to suggest that
children are less in number. The research team found a considerable number of
children in both primary and pre-primary age group in all the sites that were visited.
During the interaction with state level officers in all three states - Telangana, Odisha
and Rajasthan - it has often come across that the low enrolments in primary schools
is due to the declining birth rates in the country. This is a bit paradoxical as the
number of households is increasing, but child birth seems to be reducing. It is said
to be stable now at around 2.1, which seem to be a very desirable rate of growth
for population. Of all the states, Rajasthan seem to be having higher birth rate in
comparison to Odisha and Telangana, which got stabilised around birth rate of 2.
The experience of the research team, however, suggests that this argument in terms
of lowering birth rate is far from the real cause of reduction of enrolments in the
government schools. For example, in many villages in all the states, the Team’s quick
and rapid survey of the children in the age groups of 3-5 years and 6-10 years, it is
found that many villages had considerable number of children in each of these age
The school closure in the name of falling birth rates generally offered by the State
level functionaries is thus found to be untrue. However, we may point out that, in
Odisha, we found the number of children were indeed less. However, the reduction of
children in those cases could be due to the migration of families, which again is an
important demographic process, which is discussed in little elaboration later in this
A dominant response by the communities, across the three states, was the poor quality
of schooling in single or double teacher government schools. Teacher absenteeism,
Causes and Contexts for School Closures
lack of interest in teaching-learning activities and multi-grade teaching were some of
the common grievances that, according to the parents, led to withdrawal of children.
While everywhere good infrastructure was in place, the teacher’s absence or apathy
or in some cases involvement of teachers in other clerical tasks made the school
unattractive for children. The case study of Narsingh Tanda primary school in Medak,
Telangana, shows how a teacher’s attitude led to fall in enrolment bringing the school
on the verge of closure.
Narsingh Tanda primary school was set up in 1998. Initially there were three regular
teachers when the school was set up with 100 children on rolls. Gradually the
number of children started declining as some started moving to ashram schools,
some to private schools in Narsapur, which is at a distance of 10-15 KM and is a
small urban centre, and Nagulpally village primary school. A major consequence
of this withdrawal of children from this primary school was that as part of the staff
rationalisation process, only one teacher remained. However, there was a particular
phase in which the enrolments sharply declined. According to the teachers and the
community members, a substitute teacher who was posted in this school for one
year was responsible for further decline in enrolments. A male teacher was posted as
a substitute for the female teacher who went on maternity leave from August 2014
to February 2015. The former, the parents complained, did not pay attention to the
children and would vile away time under a tree outside the school. It was during this
time the parents, highly disappointed with the teacher’s attitude, started withdrawing
their children from this school.
One member also tried to express his discontentment with the teacher, however,
he was told to mind his business as nobody else was concerned. The SMC too was
not very proactive in making the teacher come regular to the school and teach
rather than loiter outside the school during the school hours. As per the attendance
records, the enrolment fell from 30 students in June 2015 to 22 in January 2016.
Narsingh Tanda school’s case reflects the condition of single teacher schools in the
country. According to the academic coordinator of SSA Medak, “there may be more
than 500 such single teacher schools in Medak alone”.
Similar stories of poor quality of education and general apathy of teachers towards
students were found in the other two states too. In Pataphala village of Banswara,
the Bhil community described how a single-teacher, burdened with paper work,
was unable to tackle a group of 60-70 children in their neighbourhood school. The
Pataphala school had earlier produced girls who went on to pursue graduation, but
gradually quality of education in the school fell. At the same time, private schools
drained the strength. In the Harijanbasti school in Alwar district, largely catering to
Dalits and Meos in Alwar, complaints about teacher absenteeism were abound.
In Jhimikiguda village of Koraput, Odisha, the primary school was built in 2012, in
the aftermath of the RTE implementation and started with 10-15 children got closed
down in 2015. The Kondh community living in that village was of the view that the only
teacher appointed in the school would remain absent for many days and children’s
education suffered.
In Raiguru Basudeipur school of Balianta block (Khurda, Odisha), the community
complained that when the school was running, the teacher only sat idle and would
hardly pay any attention to teaching - learning activities. In addition to this, there
were complaints about misappropriation of mid-day meal funds and lack of adequate
infrastructure from the community members. As a result, while the well-to-do children
belonging to Brahmin families in the village moved to private schools, other children
from disadvantaged backgrounds enrolled themselves in Hirapur Government Upper
Primary School located at a distance of approximately 1.5 KM from Basudeipur21.
The closure of Raiguru Basudeipur school, however, is also a case of increasing
privatization that hollowed the government school classrooms. The following section
discusses this factor in detail.
The cases of Raiguru
Basudeipur school in
Balianta block of Khurda
district; Harijanbasthi
school in Sahdoli
block of Alwar district,
Rajasthan; and Elwarthy
and Kojjaguda schools
in Shankarpalle mandal
of Rangareddy district
and Mohamadabad
school in Narsapur
mandal of Medakdistrict
are good examples
of how increasing
privatization has led
to low enrolments and
subsequent government
school closures. Raiguru Basudeipur is a revenue village having around 22 households
belonging to economically advanced Brahmin families. They have network of relatives
in and around Bhubaneswar and many are employed in various departments of
Government of Odisha. According to the community, the school closed around 2013
due to low enrolment.When the school was started in 1992 there were around 50
children on rolls. It was only around 2010-11 the enrolment began to fall as there
In Rajasthan, many single schools were started in
remote habitations by the previous government
in the name of Rajeev Gandhi Pathshalas in 2002,
which were primarily single teacher or at times
single permanent teacher with another Shiksha
Sahayak. The school buildings were built in 2009-
10 and, in 2014, these schools were shut down.
When these schools were started, there were
at least 30 students in each one of them. They
were running well, but when the private schools
came up with a facility of transportation, then
there was a sudden depletion of enrolments in
the government schools.
- A Primary School Teacher, Ghatol, Banswara,
21 It is important to mention here that another primary school is located within a distance of 300 metres from Raiguru Basudeipur. This is situated in
the hamlet village largely inhabited by scheduled castes and other backward classes. However, due to caste differences that run deep between the
upper caste Brahmins and the lower castes, the former prefer to send their children to Hirapur Upper Primary school.
Causes and Contexts for School Closures
was a movement largely towards private schools. A strong inclination towards the
private emerged in conversations with families in this village.
Balianta, which is close to the capital city of Bhubaneswar has witnessed mushrooming
of private schools. According to the Block Education Officer (BEO) there are 23 private
schools running in Balianta and the enrolment in government schools is decreasing
as a result of proliferation of these private schools. In Shankarpalle mandal (Elwarthy
and Kojjaguda villages) of Rangareddy district too, there has been a steady growth
of private schools which led to movement of children from government to private
schools in the area. Children seem to travel even 20 KM distance by the school run
mini buses and auto rickshaws to reach the private schools mainly in the urban
Similarly, in Rajasthan, opening up of private schools was responsible for draining the
strength of students in Harijanbasti and Bagadmeo schools in Alwar. According to the
villagers, two private schools came up in Harijanbasthi in the last 5 years. After the
primary school was closed down some more children went and joined those private
schools. In educationally backward districts too, privatisation had depleted children
in the government schools or sometimes have given rise to the setting up of private
schools post closure. In Radapada and Thandapada habitations in Ghatol block of
Banswara district in Rajasthan, post school closure, a school called Vivekananda
Vidya Niketan run by a Non-Governmental Organisation, but fee charging school,
was started and today it has around 20 children enrolled who otherwise wereto be
merged with a school nearby. Private schools include schools sponsored or run by
non-governmental organizations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Rashtriya Swayam
Sewak Sangh. These schools were functioning as alternatives to the government schools
in Telangana, Odisha and Rajasthan and seemed to have gained popularity among
parents. Two such schools
were visited by the Team
in Odisha as well as
From discussions with
parents at sites in Odisha
and Rajasthan, we found
that appeal of private
schools was mainly
based on the fact that these schools provided transport which made commuting easy.
Secondly, there is a belief among the parents that their children got more serious
attention from the teachers in these private and non-governmental schools. They
also said discipline in children is much better in comparison to government schooling.
For parents who are sending their children to Saraswati Sishu Mandirs, ‘touching feet’
and ‘learning Sanskrit’ are appealing.
In Olarabindha village of Odisha, parents prefer to send their children to Odia medium
“Good education means education in a private
school. In government school there is no fear
but in private there is a fear inside children
which forces them to study well. In private
school there is a reward for achievement”.
- Parent, Raigurubasudeipur, Khurda, Odisha
private schools as they will be more equipped to help their children in daily academic
activities at home. They emphasized that the quality of teaching in Saraswati Sishu
Mandirs was far better and “a child of class 5 studying in a government school will
not able to compete with a child of class 3 from Saraswati Sishu Mandir”.
It is important to note that where government schools were working well like in the
case of Nagulpally and Balabhadraipalle villages in Medak district of Telangana, the
Team found that there was competition for admission in government schooling. In
Nagulpally, the teachers stated that they are unable to admit all students seeking
admission as there was not much infrastructure to take more children. We also
found in villages of Alwar a trend of returning to government schools by those who
left earlier as the fees in private schools they got admitted become unbearable for
the family. Children seem to be returning to government schools for upper primary
education in some parts of Rajasthan.
However, it is important to emphasize on two points. One, while privatization may
have drawn some children from the government to the private school, this holds
true only in the case of economically well-off families. Largely, the marginalized
communities comprising SCs, STs, OBCs and minorities like Meos continue to remain in
the government school systems, making them essential for realising their educational
aspirations. Secondly, private schools are yet to reach out to populations in remote
regions of these states, inhabited by the tribals and Dalits, making government schools
the only available options.
In educationally advanced regions, privatisation is the main threat for the survival
of the government schooling. According to activists like Anil Pradhan, Convenor, RTE
Forum, Odisha: “privatization is the biggest threat to government schools in the
As mentioned earlier, permanent or seasonal migration was another factor that led to
a decline in the enrolments in districts like Mahbubnagar, Medak and Banswarawhere
both intra-state and inter-state seasonal migration is taking place every year.
Migration among tribals is
found to be high in several
districts of western
and northern Odisha
particularly Bolangir,
Nuapada, Kalahandi,
Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj,
Balasore, etc.
Pradipta Nayak
from Human Rights
“Heavy migration from the Tandas (tribal
hamlets) takes place during the sugarcane
season. At times, the entire village migrates.
Some families also migrate to cities during the
custard apple season to sell their produce and
few may settle down in the city itself and start
looking for other means for livelihood”
- Academic Coordinator of SSA, Medak, Telangana.
Causes and Contexts for School Closures
Organization opined that
in Bolangir, for example,
a major reason for low
enrolment is migration.
The migrants leave in
January and come back
in June. As the academic
year starts in April
the children are not in
the school enrolment
In Banswara’s Pataphala
village dominated by
the Bhil community, men
and women migrate to
Ahmedabad and Surat
in the bordering state
of Gujarat to work
as construction labourers. Some of the teachers in the merged school of Handi in
Banswara district opined that migration was affecting the schooling of children. At
times, they had to get the students from home to appear for even the 10th class
board examination.
In the wake of migration, the family structure also gets altered. Mostly, the young men,
sometimes along with their wives migrate to other districts or neighbouring states
leaving behind the older generation and the children. Pooja’s story is an example of
this (See Box).
Most of the Telangana districts are affected by both the internal and international
migration of labour. The relative backwardness of the region, lack of water for
drinking as well as irrigation which makes living and livelihoods difficult, relative lack
of industrialisation in the state and many other circumstances which suppress socially,
economically and politically the tribal populations, Dalits and the religious minorities,
force them to opt for migration to cities within the country and also to the Gulf
countries in particular. The internal migration from Telangana particularly comes
from the most disadvantaged and unskilled populations of districts like Mahbubnagar.
It may not be surprising to know that a bus goes everyday from Kosgi to Pune and
Mumbai taking the families and individual members of tribal communities seeking
to migrate. The Team was told that this bus itself is named as ‘valasala’ (migratory)
bus by the local communities. Thus, migration is one cause of reducing numbers of
children in the village/habitation schools or has been a cause of lack of attendance
of children in the school.
Migration, therefore, also means that schools in source villages though have children
Pooja stays with
her grandparents
in Oddukindi tanda
in Kosgi mandal of
Mahbubnagar and
walks every day
to and from the
merged Balabhadraipalle school, which is
at a distance of 2-3 KM. Her parents have
migrated to Pune where her father works as
a semi-skilled labourer (mastri). She has three
younger siblings, two brothers and one sister,
who are living with the parents but Pooja is
staying in Oddukindi. She aspires to become
a teacher when she grows up.
in the village but they are
not found in the school.
Or they are not there in
the school because they
have moved temporarily
with their parents during a
certain period of the year.
Or at times, the schools
that were specially
opened for children
of migrant labour in
destination districts, cities
and areas are depleted as
the migrants keep moving
from one site to another
over a period in the year.
For instance, Olarabindha
school in Khurda, Odisha,
was closed because many
students were children
of brick kiln workers and
the children reduce when
the parents are moving
from one site to another.
Further, parents also stop
sending their children to
the school in the monsoon
when they migrate to
other places in search of
jobs.This leads to dwindling numbers and this causes low enrolments or withdrawal
or drop-out of children, finally leading that school towards closure.
On the other hand, the plight of migrants remains unabated in the cities. In case
of Lambadas, scholars like Ramaswamy and Bhangya (2002)22 have noted that the
migration has not “led to any prosperity either”. To get a sense of the situation of
migrant children in the cities, a field visit was made to a construction site at Kokapet
in Rangareddy district (within the city limits of Cyberabad). Numerous families from
Telangana districts migrate to the city of Hyderabad in search of work and get
circulated from one site of work to another, in the process spending decades within
the bounded fences of the construction sites.
Most of these workers see the outside world when they are transported from one
site to the other like prisoners by the middlemen and builders, who put them to
Kokapet Construction Site
Temporary structures made of tin/asbestos
sheets have been erected to house the
construction labourers and their families till
the construction is completed. The settlement
is inhabited by people from Bihar, Nellore
(coastal Andhra), Mahbubnagar, Nizamabad,
Rangareddy districts of Telangana.
At the time of visit to one site about 30-40
people comprising mostly single men and
few married men with their families were
staying in the settlement. Many of them have
left their children behind in the village with
the grandparents. But approximately 15-20
children in the pre-school and primary school
going age are present at the site.
Children in the school going age loiter around
all day long when the parents are away for
work. Ameena narrates the routine of life in
such a settlement: In the morning parents
prepare food and leave for work. The children
play all day long, eat lunch and fall asleep.
Parents return in the evening, wash up the
children and keep them at home).
22 Gita Ramaswamy, and Bhangya Bhukya. (2002). Lambadas: Changing Cultural Patterns . Economic and Political Weekly, 37(16), 1497-1499.
Causes and Contexts for School Closures
work from 7 am to 9 pm everyday irrespective of their psychological and physical
conditions. They leave their children back home or bring them to the work sites, in
both instances, the schooling of the child is severely affected.Thus, the children of
migrants remain excluded from the educational scenario both at the source and
destination of migration.
Interestingly, while children left the village schools, forcing the state to come out
with a policy to close down school they once attended, the state seem to have been
mute in finding out any policy remedy so far for accommodating and ensuring the
educational continuity of these children who have become traders in the fate of their
Certain programmes introduced by the government23 such as ashram schools24 for
tribal children, model/success schools25, and Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidhalayas26
have also led to decline in enrolments. The closure of Jhimikiguda primary school
in Koraput reveals how establishment of residential schools conflicted with the
functioning of an existing primary school. The school was established in 2012 after
the community demanded a school in their vicinity as children were facing difficulty in
accessing the Uparmania school. However, when the Integrated Tribal Development
Agencies (ITDA) constructed hostel in a nearby area, the enrolment drastically came
down and the school closed down in 2015. Jhimikiguda’s school closure is also a
reflection of callous planning and wastage of resources as the newly built buildings
with around 6 to 7 rooms stands abandoned today. The children from this closed
school were absorbed by the hostels. While some community members opined that
they prefer to send their children to hostels as they remain disciplined and focussed, it
is worth asking if smaller children in the primary age group should be sent to hostels,
away from the family and community.
Thus,the setting up of model/success schools, Ashram schools, KGBVs, etc. had
depleted the schools in the neighbourhood of the children. It may be noted that not
all children in the neighbourhoods could be accommodated in these selective schools
and therefore leaving those schools depleted and move towards closure.
23 In addition to this, another scheme called “Anwesha” was launched in Odisha in December 2015. As a part of this scheme 5,000 tribal children are
expected to be provided English medium education from class I to X every year. The government plans to get these children educated in the English
medium schools of urban districts of Cuttack and Bhuwaneshwar and invest 25,000 annually on the fees and 800 on scholarship per student( The
Telegraph 22/12/2015). Anil Pradhan from RTE Forum remarked: “This is an example in which the government contradicts its own policy of Multi-
lingual education”.
24 The scheme of Ashram Schools was launched in 1990-91 with the objective to extend facilities like establishment of residential schools for STs in
an environment conducive to learning to increase the literacy rates among the tribal students and to bring them at par with other population of the
country” (Ministry of Tribal Affairs).
25 The undivided AndhraPradesh government started around 6,500 schools which were designated as model schools or success schools to impar t good
quality education. However these schools have failed to catch the imagination of people and many schools were closed down due to poor enrolment,
low quality of education, non-availability of additional classrooms, shortage of textbooks, and poor performance of teachers. In Adilabad district of
Telangana itself about 212 out of 272 schools established in 2008-09 got closed down (The Hindu, August 5, 2015, p. 8). Inspite of such failure,
Telangana government had decided recently to set up one model school per each cluster in the state to what it calls to improve quality of education
(Andhra Jyothi, Hyderabad, January 6, 2016, p.3). Similarly, Rajasthan government too had launched a massive scheme of Model schools in the
budgets of 2016-17 presented to the state Assembly in March 2016.
26 The Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) scheme was launched by the Government of India in August, 2004 for setting up residential schools
at upper primary level for girls belonging predominantly to the SC, ST, OBC and minorities in difficult areas” (OPEPA Guidelines).
The RTE Act provides for 25% of reservation of children from economically weaker
and socially disadvantaged sections in the private schools. But, this provision does not
merely provide quota for EWS children, but it provides re-imbursement of per child
tuition expenditures to the private schools where the EWS children are admitted.
Though the Act states that the state shall pay the per child expenditures or the actual
fees paid by the parents in general, whichever is less, to the concerned private school,
in reality, the state governments seem to be paying the per child costs to the private
schools even when the actual fees payable in those schools was far less than that of
the per child expenditures.
For instance, if School A charges around Rs. 3600 per annum from any child,
irrespective their social and economic status, the State tend to pay an amount of
Rs. 17000, which is calculated by the State of Rajasthan as the per child expenditure.
That means, this amount is almost five times that of the actual fees charged from its
regular clientele. Government of Telangana has now taken a decision to seek from
the Union Government repealing of this re-imbursement clause in the RTE.
This policy measure indeed had been the cause of reduction of children in government
schooling in places where privatisation has indeed been widespread. This seems to be
the cause of low enrolment and subsequently of school closures in the educationally
advanced districts such as Rangareddy in Telangana, Alwar in Rajasthan and Khurda
in Odisha.
As mentioned earlier, it has come to the notice of the Team that the inaccurate
feeding of the data by the school teachers when they fill-in the forms for annual DISE
data is also said to be the cause of projections about low enrolments. The civil society
organisations which have been working in villages where schools are closed claimed
that there is little suspicion in terms of the actual data shown in the DISE. What they
say is that the teachers feed wrong data about their habitations and villages with a
view to get transferred if the data leads to school closures.
This of course has been a development once the policy of school closures has been
rolled out after 2013-14. This means that the teachers seek to be placed not in remote
habitations, but seek to be placed in merged schools which generally are located in
bigger panchayat/ revenue villages or move to a better and well connected schools.
It was felt by many in the education departments and also by civil society members
at the block, district and state levels, this may be one of the reasons for a sudden
drop in enrolments in the post 2013, and when the first signs of closure/merger policy
were unveiled in many states. It is therefore imperative for the official machinery to
cross-check the validity of the data through child tracking exercises before actually
effecting school closures or mergers.
Causes and Contexts for School Closures
There are two aspects to
community involvement in
the decision making process of
school closures and mergers.
Firstly, it is important to ask
whether the parents, SMC
members and community at
large where the closed school is
located were consulted before
taking a decision that would
affect their children’s educational
needs and aspirations as well as overall development of the community. Secondly, it is
important to explore if the community raised a voice against the decision of school closures
and mergers.
The second aspect is important because, at least on paper, the policy in Odisha and Rajasthan,
indicates a possibility that if the community resists or if there is an increase in enrolment, the
government would consider re-opening the closed school or de-merging the merged school
as the case may be, depending on the kind of nomenclature a particular state uses. This
section delves into these two aspects of community’s role.
In Rajasthan, most of the schools were closed without consulting the community. In Thekda
village of Ramgarh and Harijanbasti of Sahdoli in Alwar, it was revealed that the School
Management Committees (SMCs) were not involved in the process.
The very idea of SMC is to give parents and communities a fair representation in the
functioning and decision making
process of the school. SMCs
are statutory bodies that are
responsible for management and
functioning of schools. However,
the decision to go ahead with
the school closures and mergers
without consultation with the
SMCs goes against the spirit
of this provision. The situation
in Thekda is even more dismal
as the community claimed that
they had no SMC and none of
Chapter 7
“First, the Government should consult the
community members, the parents and enquire
about their opinion and their interests in this
matter. There should be an enquiry into what
other possible options are there for parents
to educate their children if the school is closed
- Anil Pradhan, RTE Forum, Odisha
“We initially thought it is a normal procedure
and the children who were going to this
school will go to the senior secondary school
but now walking long distances is becoming a
problem for the children. On their way to the
school, children fight and sometimes return
home mid way crying. Now we have realized
that it was a big loss for us and we were
cheated by the closure of this school”.
- A Parent, Harijanbasti, Sahdoli, Alwar, Rajasthan
Community Involvement in
Closure/Merger Decision-Making
them had ever been a part of it. Thekda school is an interesting case as there was no school
building though the school was granted to the village several years ago.
In another site, Harijanbasti of Sahdoli in Alwar, the village Sarpanch shared that he was
not involved in any kind of dialogue before the closure/merger. The teacher who taught in
Harijanbasti school narrated that one day she was simply informed about the closure and
asked to go directly to the new school. On that day, the children, unaware of this change,
waited for the teacher in the old school. Later, the teacher again went back and brought
them to the merged school.
In Odisha, though there are elaborate policies put in place by the government regarding
closure and mainstreaming through various letters issued by government authorities, there
is no trace of community consultation. A review of those letters suggests that they are
just directions given to the district officials, which leave no room for consultation. In fact,
civil society organizations in Odisha argued that before taking decisions about closure/
mainstreaming, the Government did not consult the Gram Sabha which thus violates the
spirit of Panchayat Extension to Schedule Area(PESA) Act.
The civil society organizations like Action Aid, RTE Forum, Human Rights Organisation in
Odisha are of the view that the government in its decision to close schools has indeed
not consulted the community. The neighbourhood in which the school is located has more
information about the school than anyone else they feel. From the round table discussions, the
press meets of civil society organizations and the site visits it is clear that had the government
consulted the community prior to the decision making, it would have found some ways to
increase the enrolments rather
than to close down the schools.
Moreover, the community
members have a better opinion
about whether the school should
be closed or not.
In Telangana too, there was no
trace of community consultation
prior to the closure of schools.
Even to make the merger
process effective, the government should have taken the community into confidence so that
merger process is successful. But, this wasn’t evident anywhere in the policy maker’s or
the implementer’s vision, thus leaving the aftermath of closure solely the responsibility of
the individual parent or child to continue to access schooling at a far-away place from the
What is even more interesting to note is that the schools were put to closure precisely
because they were unable to set up an SMC, due to less number of children in the school
enrolments. Typically, an SMC requires about 12 to 18 parents as members depending on
“We mobilized villagers by making them
aware about the importance of education.
We explained that if the government closes
down the school, it is they who will suffer and
then it will be difficult to send their children
to school as there is no other school nearby”.
- A Shiksha Sahayak, Ranginiguda, Jeypore,
Koraput, Odisha
Community Involvement in Closure/Merger Decision-Making
legal requirement as per state
specific SMC or Community
Participation Act of the State.
In case if the school does not
have enough children, say in
this case 12-18 children, then
the SMC cannot be formed,
which then is necessary to run a
school account in any authorised
bankto collect and disburse
school funds. That means, the
official machinery takes recourse
to the inability to form SMC as
a suitable reason for closure. In
Odisha, clearly, this seems to
have been one of the defences
the Government officials put up
to defend the decisions of school
There were some instances
where community as well as
parental efforts and resistances
have got the school re-opened.
In Koraput, where the beautiful
yet at the same a mountainous
landscape makes access difficult,
a neighbourhood school is
indispensable. Realizing the
challenges that a child would
face if the school is closed, the
community in Ranginiguda took
initiatives to increase its enrolment to prevent closure.
In Rajasthan, Bagadmeobudhagaon
school in Alwar was merged with Rajkiya Uchcha
Madhyamik Vidyalaya, Bagadmeo without any dialogue with the parents. The children were
only informed by the teacher to come to the new merged school. But as children began to
face difficulties and risks in accessing the new school, the parents took up the issue with the
Principal of Bagadmeo Senior Secondary School who then allowed the school to be run in
An Example of How Mohammadan
Primary School in Jeypore town,
Koraput district, is still functioning
It was a pleasant surprise to find that
Mohammadan Primary School in Jeypore
town of Koraput, a supposedly closed school,
was functioning with 16 children and 2
teachers. When the school was about to close,
there were just 3 children but the number was
increased to 16. Located in a Muslim locality,
the school’s enrolment was raised from 1 in
2013 to 16 in 2016 with the help of active
teacher and community participation.
When the community was informed that
the school is about to face closure, they put
pressure on the government officials arguing
that it is an old school that caters to the
minorities and, therefore, it is not fair to close
it down.SMC members also approached the
Anjuman Committee who then discussed the
matter with the district officials.
Some parents were convinced to withdraw
their children from the adjacent Dhangidisahi
School and admit them in Mohammadan
school. The teachers took initiative and went
from door to door to convince parents. Since
the school was not receiving any funds from
the government as the SMC had become
defunct, teachers spent from their own
pockets to help children buy learning material
which would encourage parents to send their
children to this school.
the old building at Bagadmeobudhagaon, however, under the new name and administration.
In Banswara too, the ex-sarpanch of the village, Thandapada, in Ghatol said that when their
upper primary school was merged with a secondary school, he took it up with the MLA
of his Constituency to de-merge. As a result, the primary section was demerged and was
shifted back to the old school building in Thandapada.
In Telangana, while we found no examples of active resistance worth mentioning, it was
nevertheless apparent that if the community intervenes there is a possibility of at least
stopping the school from being closed or making it functional. This was evident from an
example of Gattu Mandal in Mahbubnagar district, shared by Bhaskar Rao, Additional State
Project Director SSA, Telangana. As teachers were being withdrawn from a school, with the
support of MV Foundation the school children wrote post cards to the Chief Justice. With the
intervention of the High Court, the process was halted27.
In Odisha, there was one instance where community’s voice did not help prevent closure. In
the case of Jhimikiguda Primary school in Odisha, the community members pointed out that
when they came across an order to shut the school, many people from their community had
27 In 2015 hundreds of parents and children from Gattumandal sent 1600 post cards to High Court Chief Justice “informing the court that they are
deprived of teachers”. Drop-out and illiteracy are major issues plaguing the villages in Gattu as a large number of children are engaged in cotton
farming. (Source: Official website of MV Foundation).
Community Involvement in Closure/Merger Decision-Making
Ranginiguda’s story of resistance
Ranginiguda is a small village of 35 households consisting mainly of Paraja tribes.
Apprehending that their school might be closed due to low enrolment, the teachers
and the community members campaigned door to door in their village as a result
of which they could increase the enrolments to twenty children. Conversation with
one of the teachers, Sadananda Samantaray, revealed that the intervention of the
teachers (mainly by the Shiksha Sahayak who is essentially from the neighbouring
village), the Sarpanch and the SMC members who are very active in the village, led
to the re-opening of the closed school.
Since the hamlet has less population, the teachers and community members had to
convince parents in the neighbouring villages to send their children to this school
so that the enrolment goes up and it does not invite a closure. They also felt that
closing down of schools in a place like this will be a setback for these communities
which are already marginalized. By raising awareness, the members succeeded in
increasing enrolment and the school was not closed down.
However, the community members pointed out that if the government goes on
increasing the cap of enrolment then one day they may not be able to prevent it from
closing down. The Sarpanch of Tankua village which is very close to Ranginiguda
highlighted the role played by the SMC members, the Panchayat members and
the community to convince parents to send their children to school. She and other
members of the Panchayat took initiative to convince parents to educate their
children. So she hopes that the school attendance will gradually improve as children
who are present in Anganwadis will eventually join the school as they grow up. In
every household, according to her, there are around three children who will add to
the numbers when they attain the appropriate school going age.
gone to the District Planning Coordinator (DPC), SSA, Koraput, to request him to reconsider
the decision to close down their school, they were given an assurance that the school will
not be closed. But subsequently when the officials found the enrolment was not increasing,
they closed down the school in spite of the community resistance.
The extent of resistance may also differ from rural to urban regions. In an urban, densely
populated, district like Khurda, the closure of Raiguru Basudeipur school in Balianta block did
not face much resistance as the dominant Brahmin community was more keen on sending
their children to private schools. Rest of the families send their children to other government
schools located nearby. As these regions are not scattered like the villages of Koraput
the closure did not have a serious impact. In all the three states, however, the community
members gave a sense that a neighbourhood school is always a better option for them and
their children. Some community members were of the view that if the school reopens, they
will prefer to send their child to the neighbourhood school.
Across all the three states, an overwhelming response of the parents and community
members in villages where a school has been closed is that it has negatively impacted
their children’s schooling. The distance from the village to the newly merged school
is considerable for children in the primary school-going age group. While parents were
discontented with the quality of village schools prior to their closure, the decision of merger
has not brought any significant improvement in their children’s educational experiences.
Rather, as it will be discussed subsequently, in many villages, a considerable chunk of children
either discontinued or became highly irregular after the closure/merger, defeating the
intentions with which the process is being undertaken. Therefore, closure has put further
constraints on poor families, tribals and Dalits particularly, to either send their children to
a far-away merged government school or to go beyond their capacity to get their child
enrolled in a private school.
The issue of accessibility becomes particularly important in areas with predominantly tribal
population. These tribal hamlets are not densely populated but rather scattered and situated
on difficult terrains. In terms of transport, only autos might be available which also seemed
to be sparse. Other alternatives include privately owned cycles and motorbikes. However,
how many households have their own means of transport is a question. In these regions
where hills, open fields, forests, rivers and canals abound, closure of the only neighbourhood
school can produce several challenges for small children. Parents complained that smaller
children can go to the merged school only when accompanied by elder siblings or other
peers.In case of girls, walking alone through the fields or isolated roads involves risks.
In every site, a common grievance was that the children become irregular during monsoons.
In Thanagaji, Alwar, Rajasthan, for example, small children shared that it hurts to walk long
distances. After merger they are also required to leave the house earlier than usual to be able
to reach the new school on time. In Oddukindi Tanda and the adjoining Dhanamma Tanda,
the Lambadas have to walk quite a distance even to be able to reach the point from where
they can take a bus or auto for going further to the nearest village of Balabhadraipalle28.The
so-called merged school in Balabhadraipalle village is situated at a distance of 2 km from
both Oddukindi Tanda and Dhanamma Tanda. The case of Kachireddyguda in Shankarpalle
Mandal of Rangareddy district too is similar.
The Bhils in Pataphala village of Banswara district, Rajasthan, shared a similar story of how
smaller children are not able to walk to the new schools which are at a distance of at least
Parent and Children
Chapter 8
28 For those in Oddukindi tanda, Kosgi is the nearest urban centre where there are basic facilities for health, education and commercial activity.
Parent and Children Perspectives
2 KMs. After the closure most of
the children loiter around and
play in the daytime.The girls
particularly have completely
stopped attending the new
school. Parents added that those
children who have to travel far,
stop going when it rains.
A case of difficulty in accessing
the new merged schools was
found in Ranginiguda village
of Koraput district in Odisha.
There is a water canal that runs
between this village and other habitations which are scattered around. There is no bridge
over the canal and the villagers have to put up with a makeshift bridge using electric poles.
Our research team noticed that out of 4 poles, one was partly broken and submerged in the
water. Our team members were themselves apprehensive while walking over these shaky
poles to cross over the canal. Furthermore, once this barrier is crossed, the children have to
walk through the isolated fields covered with wild vegetation to be able to reach the upper
primary government school.
It was clear that in this village, if the neighbourhood school is closed, the options for the
small children are too limited. The Sarpanch opined: “if there is a neighbourhood school,
only then the children will attend school”. Therefore, the very nature of these hamlets and
geography is an important consideration when it comes to a decision like school closure.
The Right to Education Act, 2009, was passed with the objective of universalizing elementary
education and making schooling an inalienable right of every child. The school closures,
however, seem to be having the opposite impact. For instance, what was alarming in Oddukindi
Tanda (Mahbubnagar district, Telangana) is that a considerable number of children in the
primary school-going age group were not enrolled in any school and go to the Anganwadi
centre instead. The Anganwadi worker shared that since there are less number of children
for the Anganwadi, they add those who are not enrolled in the primary school or the drop-
outs of primary stage of schooling to the Anganwadi list to be able to get funds. The sight of
children loitering and playing in the hamlet and open fields at a time when they should be
in school was worrisome.
The reason behind the drop-outs is largely attributed to the distance between the settlement
and the other available schools which makes it difficult for smaller children to travel. While
the children who are enrolled in private schools are ferried by the buses provided by the
“The school should be opened even if it is for
ten children. There should be a teacher. Right
now children are facing difficulties. Around
five children are going to Chippalaturty for
which they have to cross a pond. During
monsoon water fills up in the pond. Children
sometimes dive and play in the water. Hence,
it will be better if this school is re-opened”.
- A Parent in Mohamadabad Village, Narsapur
Mandal, Medak district, Telangana.
school, those children who
have re-enrolled themselves in
government schools are required
tocover a distance of two to
three kilometres every day via
a kuccha road. There were two
children from this Tanda who
had never been to school which
only indicates that the number
could be more.
Not only in Telangana, in the
other states too, several children
in the primary age were seen
loitering and playing in the village
or fields in the school going
hours. These groups include
children who have either never
been to school or have dropped
out after the closures.
In case of Rajasthan, where the
enrolment records from closed
school were shifted to the
merged, we got an opportunity
to verify how many children
are regular to the new school.
In both Nanglabanjirka and
Handi schools, where Thekda
and Pataphala schools were
merged respectively, we found
that a large number of children
discontinued after closure. While
a small number might have
joined some other school, the
sight of children in the villages
showed that many had dropped
out. Table 5 shows that there has
not been any significant rise in
the enrolment before and after
merger. In fact, the numbers
should have doubled up after
merger, but the situation seen in reality is far from such a desired outcome.
Closure of Mohamadabad School
Leaves Little Options for Schooling
When Mohamadabad village primary school
in Medak, Telangana, was closed,some
families managed to send their children to
private schools in Narsapur which provided
buses. Others had no option but to send
them to nearby government school located
in Chippalaturty at a distance of 1 KM.
Around 5 children from the village are going
to Chippalaturty, however, accessing this
government school is fraught with risks. The
parents complained that to be able to reach
this school the children have to cross a small
pond unaccompanied by an adult. Sometimes
children also get distracted and start playing
in the pond.They also enter into fights or are
bullied/beaten by the older children in the
fields on their way to the school. The danger
is even greater for smaller children. Moreover,
during the monsoon the water level in the
pond rises which makes it precarious.
Therefore, in the absence of the option of
a neighbourhood school, what emerges are
two extremely difficult alternatives. For those
who are getting their children educated in
private schools in Narsapur have to make
ends meet to pay exorbitant tuition fee.Thus,
parents in this village were of the strong
opinion that if the school is re-opened they
would start sending their children to village
primary school instead of theprivate school.
They stressed that it was because the existing
village school was shut they are now forced
to send their children to private schools. The
third alternative is to let the children drop-
out of the school and let them grow as non-
Parent and Children Perspectives
The impact of school closures
is high in regions where child
labourers are more such as
Mahbubnagar in Telangana,
Banswara in Rajasthan and
Koraput in Odisha. In Ranginiguda,
the village Sarpanch opined that
there are large numbers of out-
of- school children. According
to her rough estimate, there
are approximately 20 drop-outs
in Tankua village. The parents
are daily wage labourers and
children are engaged as child
labourers. Rampant alcoholism
prevails in the community. Most
men and women spend their
earnings on drinking and early
deaths are not uncommon. Even
the children get initiated into this
at a very young age.
In such regions where children
are engaged as labourers, the
presence of a school and keeping
them in classrooms becomes all
the more necessary. The absence
of a neighbourhood school in
sight means that parents may
not make the extra effort to send
a child to a far away merged
school. They themselves cannot
be blamed as these communities are struggling for their livelihood and many migrate to
other regions and states in search of work. There is a strong likelihood, therefore, that all
such out of school children may turn into child labourers. In a letter29 it is mentioned that the
government functionaries arerequired to take personal responsibility to ensure that these
children do not drop out. But no such effort seems to be taking place.
In case of girls the situation is even worse. Discontinuation of their education often leads
to early marriage. The study found that the girls from Ranginiguda did not continue after
primary education as the high schools are located in Jeypore, 5 KM away or in Tankua at
distance of 1.5 KM. Parents also hesitate to send their daughters alone and would allow
them to go only in groups.
Fourteen year old Nitin has never been
enrolled in any school. His parents work as
wage labourers while he works as a shepherd.
Every morning he takes the sheep to the
forest and returns home by six in the evening.
The family owns around 30 sheep which are
sold for consumption within the community
or in the local market for around four to
five thousand rupees each. The boy’s parents
needed extra hands for work and hence,
Nitin was never sent to school. The school
closure in his neighbourhood compounded his
educational future and opportunity. His elder
brother studied in the same Oddukindi tanda
primary school which stands closed today.
“In the forest areas, schools were established
after long struggle but now the government is
closing them down. The girls who were going
to these schools dropped out. In tribal areas
child marriage is not an issue but if they are
not going to school the only option left with
them is to get girls married. This process of
merger has now led to huge drop out among
girls. There are areas where travelling from
one village to the other is a huge problem.
For people in areas like this, the merger is
nothing but closure.
- Shiv Singh, Jaipur, Alaripu
Note: Naglabanjirka UPS already had its Primary and upper primary sections and Thekda school was an addition to this number. It means that the
number should have really gone up, which it does not as is shown in the Table.
Table 5: Status of Enrolment in Closed Thekda PS and the merged Nanglabanjirka
UPS, Alwar, Rajasthan
July 2014
(before merger in closed Thekda PS)
Feb 2016 (after merger in Merged
Naglabanjirka merged school )
Schooling in Thekda village: From bad to worse?
One wonders if the situation of children in Thekda village has gone from bad to
worse after the school closure/ merger. The children were earlier studying in a
school that was running without a building since 1993. It is not difficult to imagine
for how many days during monsoon, this school without a structure must have
remained closed. Moreover, the classroom of 30-40 children was organized near a
busy highway. In fact, the villagers reported that in the past a fatal accident of a
child took place. Children also complained that their so- called classroom space
used to get water logged.
The primary section teacher shared her own experience of the challenges she
faced in Thekda: “Every now and then I was told to remove the class and there were
problems of safety. More than teaching I had to look after children’s safety. There
was no other facility such as toilets etc”.
The plight of Thekda school children did not end with the merger. After the school
was merged in 2013 around 20-25 children out of the total who were enrolled have
discontinued.The children who are continuing in the new school opined that they
start from home around 8 am to be able to reach the school that starts at 9:30
and is 2 KM away from their village. It is difficult for them to walk this distance and
sometimes they also get late. A snippet of the conversation with the children in the
merged Nanglabanjirka school is given below:
R: How many children from your old school are coming?
Child: Half of them come, other half doesn’t.
R: So what do they do? Where do they go?
Child: They remain in the village. They play cricket all day. This school is far for
Parent and Children Perspectives
One of the objectives of the
study was to examine the
strategies adopted by parents
and children in the localities
where schools are closed to
access schooling and realise
their educational aspirations.
What we found in Odisha and
Telangana particularly is that
the onus of seeking alternatives
in the event of school closure
was on the parents.
The community had either the
option of sending the child to
the available government schools or to a private school. Issues of distance and other risks
are involved in accessing the government schools, while the private schools that provide
transportation prove to be expensive for poor families of Dalits and tribals. It is important
to reiterate here that in the remote regions where tribal habitats are located have not
been completely penetrated by the private also. Therefore, the neighbourhood government
schools are indispensable.
The only available schooling options for children of closed school in Mohamadabad are
Nagulpally, Chippalaturty or private schools in Narsapur. Nagulpally is around 2 KM from
the village and only older and male children can travel on cycles. For girls and younger
children, this school too is inaccessible. A boy who was enrolled in a private school for few
months after the primary school closed and as he was too small even to be sent that far
by bus is now being sent to the Chippalaturty school. However, he continues to be irregular
29 In the letter no 2365 (30) Access/15 dated 27/02/15 issued by the Odisha Primary Education Programme Authority.
These children were also asked if these drop outs would have taken place if the
school was running in their village. The children agreed that the others would have
continued in the old school. They were of the view they would like to go to the old
neighbourhood school.
The community opined that the closure of the school has mostly affected the
enrolment of small children who face difficulty in commuting to new merged school.
One of the parents said that, “Most of the children including girls and boys are
going to some or the other school but small children, after closure of the school,
are not going anywhere. They just eat, play and sleep”.
Many students after closure/merger stopped
going to school and after that they became
rag pickers and indulged in gambling and
other activities leading to their deterioration.
- Komal Srivastava, BGVS
If there is a school in your habitation one would
still consider going, if it is not functioning or
is not visible at all, then one completely drops
the idea of schooling.
- Prof Laxminarayana, Save Education ,Telangana
due to the distance between
the home and school and the
presence of a pond that acts as a
barrier. Around 5 families moved
to another nearby village owing
both to requirement of work
and a school for their children.
For families like Nagalakshmi’s
who want to get their children
educated against all odds, more
than half of their annual earnings
go into paying the school fees.
We found similar kind of
predicament in Thekda village
of Alwar, Rajasthan, where the
villagers are mostly daily wage
labourers. The merged school is
2 KM from the village and other
government schools are located
across a highway. There are
English medium private schools
which are closer and provide
transportation. However, the
expenditure on education in
a private school is around Rs.
10,000 to 12,000 per year and
there are additional expenses on
uniforms, books, transport, etc.
There were also instances where
some families send their children
to private schools after the
village school was closed down
but they could not continue to
bear the financial burden. These children were withdrawnfrom private and were admitted
to a government school. Moreover, on our visits to two low fee private schools (sponsored
by organizations like Rasthriya Swayam Sevak Sangh and Vishwa Hindu Parishad) we found
a stark contrast in the physical infrastructure and ambience of these schools as compared
to the closed government school buildings. For children, the spacious rooms were replaced
by dingy rooms with inadequate lighting and there was no room at all in one case. Except
in one case, conversations with parents and children everywhere showed that there was no
significant difference in quality of education provided in such private schools and the closed
government schools.
Nagalakshmi’s struggles and
Nagalakshmi has two daughters aged 6 and
8. Since the children are small and will not
be able to walk far to another village for
schooling, she enrolled her two daughters
in a private school. Since the village primary
school was closed, one of her daughters was
out of school for six months as she was too
small to travel far. Currently, the private
school provides a bus that comes to pick
them up from their village. She spends around
Rs. 35,000 as fees for both the children,
however, the cost of books, uniforms etc., adds
up and she spends around Rs. 40,000-45,000
per year on her children’s education.
Her limited source of income is largely from
agriculture and sale of milk from cattle. She
earns money from sale of 3 litres of milk every
day at the rate of 30 per litre. Her yearly
income from these sources is Rs. 30,000-
35,000. It implies that her entire income is
invested in her daughters’ schooling.
Nagalakshmi herself completed up to 10th
in the Nagulpally school in spite of difficult
circumstances. Now she wants her daughters
to be educated and to have a different future.
It is primarily to save her children from
travelling and risks involved she is struggling
to get them educated in the private school
despite limited means.
Parent and Children Perspectives
In every site that was visited by the
team there was a considerable
population of pre-school children
for whom the neighbourhood
school is no longer an option.
As per the Anganwadi records
maintained in Oddukindi Tanda,
there are 28 children in the 0-5
age group. The fact that there is
considerable number of children
in the 0-5 bracket reveals a dire
future need for a school close to
the Tanda. The data was more or
less similar in a remote village of
Pataphala in Banswara district.
In Mohamadabad village of
Medak, one middle aged woman
opined: “Now there is a growing
requirement for a school in the
village as people are getting
married and having children”.
What the study also found is that while there was a policy on paper to provide transport
allowance to children in these inaccessible areas, the field investigations revealed that none
of children affected by the closure have received any TA.
Bhaskar Rao (Additional State Project Director, SSA) in Telangana opined that from their
side wherever a school is merged, they are providing transport allowance. According to him,
TA is being provided to 14,000 students, class 1 onwards (Rs. 300p/m for 10 months). It gets
deposited directly in the students’ bank accounts. The interactions with parents in the sites
visited by the research team revealed otherwise.
A more pertinent question that should be raised is whether disbursement of transport
allowance will be of any use to communities located in such difficult inaccessible terrains
as it has been described in this report. The roads in these regions still remain narrow and
underdeveloped. Means of transport are sparse and locals generally travel on foot. While
some may argue that villagers are accustomed to walking long distances, it is worth asking
if small children in the age group of 6-10 should be made to strenuously walk to the school.
Moreover, as discussed, there are other risks for smaller children and girls.
“We have urged the government to at least
do a sincere child tracking exercise in one
block. As we have Anganwadis, children from
there should be seen as future recipients of
education at primary level. Even the women
who are going to conceive should be counted.
Thus a child tracking of this nature will
definitely help and the enrolment will go up
for primary schools”.
- Shiv Singh, Alaripu, Jaipur
“There will be drop outs or parents will send
their children to private schools as a result
of Closures. This will lead to the creation of
differentiated schooling for children. It will
be hierarchical in nature. The thing which
will happen ultimately is that there will be
unequal education for children”.
- Yogendra ji, Bodh Shiksha Samiti, Kukas, Jaipur,
State level policy makers in all the three statesunder study were careful enough to use the
word ‘merger’ instead of ‘closure’ as the latter would perhaps add a negative connotation
and invite public and political acrimony. Expectedly, the news of the proposal to close down
schools indeed invited the wrath of the civil society if one were to go by the claims of the
civil society groups and rights activists. This certainly made the policy making establishment
to quickly change the nomenclature for this policy measure as a ‘merger policy’ or
‘rationalisation policy’ or ‘mainstreaming policy’ or ‘quality enhancement measure’ rather
than to be called in terms of the ultimate policy end, namely, the economisation through
‘school closures’.
In Telangana as well as Odisha, the Team found that once the schools were closed the onus
of finding the nearest school and getting enrolled was on the child and his/her parents.
As discussed earlier, in all states, schools were closed without any consultation with the
community or the parents or statutory bodies like SMCs or even the Panchayat bodies.
There was also no effort on the part of the teacher/s or any other cluster/block/mandal level
officials to guide the parents or facilitate the entire process of so-called mergers.
In Odisha, parents shared that, when the schools were closed, the children were just given
a “transfer certificate” and were expected to go and join a nearby school. This happened
despite of Odisha government’s elaborate policies that directed officials to ensure that no
child drops out after the school is closed. In fact, this betrays the promise of the state
through its governmental order that puts onus of enrolment of ‘closed school’ children in a
‘mainstreamed school’ on the cluster coordinators.
As a result of closure and absence of any actual process of merger children dropped out or
became irregular in attending the ‘new’ school. Not only this, schools were closed without
consideration of natural,geographic and physical barriers that can hinder access to new
schools. The case of Ranginiguda in Koraput, Kachireddyguda in Rangareddy, Mohamadabad
in Medak, Pataphala, Thandapada and Radapada in Banswara district reflect the callousness
with which schools were closed or merged.
In case of Rajasthan, a slightly different policy of merger was followed. The government
ensured that the records of the closed primary school are transferred to the newly merged
school along with the teacher/s. However, whether all the children from the previous school
continued their education in the merged school is questionable.
Field visits also revealed violations of the norms given in the merger policy. For example,
Thekda village school which was running without a building since mid-1990s was merged
Chapter 9
Mergers: The Process
and its Effects
Mergers: The Process and its Effects
with another upper primary school situated 2 KMs away. As per the norm, there should be
30 children in a school where concentration of a Scheduled Castes is more.Thekda had
about 82 children on rolls but still it was merged. Therefore, neither the enrolment nor the
distance criteria was followed while merging this school.
Similarly, the Harijanbasti school which catered to the Jatavs (SCs) and Meos had 43 students
but was again merged. In both the cases of merger, while the records and teachers were
transferred to the new school, all the children from the closed school were not integrated in
the merged school as the decision was left to the families to send their wards to the merged
school. While some children joined private schools where the option for one such school
existed in their immediate neighbourhood or when the family could afford transportation
costs and tuition fees of private schools located at a distance, several children however are
found to have dropped out.
A fact finding team30 in Odisha found that the below 5 enrolment criteria was too violated
and some schools having nine children were also closed. Further, distance between the
closed and so-called merged schools were more than 3 KMs in places like Kandhamal and
Sundargarh. The present study also found similar kind of violation of the distance criteria in
all the three states.
The policy also stated that schools situated in tribal dominated remote regions will not be
closed down even if it has low enrolment. However, Pataphala’s case in Banswara speaks
otherwise. The merged school in Handi is again located about 2 KMs away, that too separated
by hillocks. Although the teachers claimed that there is shorter route to the school which
is only 900 metres long, it is worth asking if small children can travel via this difficult hilly
path to reach the school. The resultant effect was that few children initially went to the new
school but later they too stopped going.
The closures of schools were justified on the grounds of better governance, improving teacher
accountability and overall quality of education. Upendra Reddy from SCERT, Telangana State,
believes that merger in a school with greater number of children will enhance participation
and peer interaction as “children not only learn from teachers but also from peer groups and
a school with very few children cannot be called a school”. Therefore, it became important
to explore if mergers have indeed improved teaching-learning environment of the children,
as it is hoped by the State functionaries.
At the outset, it is found, contrary to what is expected by the functionaries of school education
justifying closures and seeking mergers, that the mergers have only disrupted teaching-
learning activities and perhaps further degraded the quality of education. For example, the
school in Bagadmeobudhagaon in Alwar was de-merged and re-opened in the old premises
30 From press note on “School Closure- Impact and Challenges: Denial of Education to Children of the poor and Vulnerable shared by a Civil Society
Organization in Odisha.
after complaints against merger were registered. However, since it continued to exist under
the administration of a secondary school in Bagadmeo, where this primary school was
merged, the teachers have to report daily in the new school and a lot of time is consumed in
travelling from one school to another. This again results in loss of teaching hours.One parent
complained that “though the school has been reopened, hardly any teaching takes place as
most of the time the teachers are not in class. They come late and leave early”.
As per the teachers and other staff in the merged schools, after mergers, number of teachers
has not increased. Moreover, there aren’t enough rooms to accommodate all the children.
The argument that if there is more number of children after merger, grades can be separated
and each grade can be allotted one teacher did not become a reality. Multi-grade and multi-
level teaching continues to take place in Nanglabanjirka, Handi and Sahdolimerged schools.
Shortage of teachers in the schools was a common grievance in almost every merged school
visited by the Team. For instance, in Balabhadraipalle upper primary school in Mahbubnagar,
the school’s headmaster shared that it is already overburdened as there are only four
teachers for the entire school. Presently, it has a total strength of 249 children out of which
185 are enrolled in primary sections alone. They all complained about being over-burdened
in the school and the fact that they are often caught up in clerical work.
The condition in the merged senior secondary school in Sahdoli was found to be worse. The
closed school in Harijanbasti which was merged into this senior secondary school had about
three to four spacious rooms along with ample open space surrounded by a boundary wall.
In the merged school, the entire primary section of such a school was huddled into a small
room- like structure. The children were seated on a dusty mattress spread on a floor where
deep cracks have appeared. While this was the plight of children, the teachers had their own
difficulties and limitations to share. One primary teacher shared that it is difficult to teach
the small children in a school where discipline and silence has to be maintained for the sake
of senior secondary students. Children in this age group are habitual of learning through
rote and repetition, but it is not possible for the teachers to follow this method in a senior
secondary school or the Model School.
The present study concurs with the view expressed in the study conducted by BGVS31,
Rajasthan chapter, in 100 schools in 2014, that the primary sections were neglected in the
merged secondary and senior secondary schools. Citing example of one school, Komal
Srivastava of BGVS, Rajasthan, shared that the Principal was indifferent to the needs of
the small children. This study also found not only restrictions were put on small children
including restricted usage of toilets, but senior students would make smaller children do the
tasks of cleaning etc. Social activists, Noor Mohammad from Alwar Mewat Siksha and Vikas
Sansthan (AMID), Rajasthan, and Komal Srivastava of BGVS opined that in secondary and
senior secondary schools there is no focus on the primary level and the primary teachers
are also treated badly. The entire focus remains on the 10th and 12th examinations for the
Principals of the secondary and senior secondary schools.
31 See study titled “Scheme of Merger of Schools : A conscious denial of education to children of poor and vulnerable communities. A study on merger
of schools in 5 districts of Rajasthan: Jaipur City, Alwar, Pali, Baran, Bundi”
Mergers: The Process and its Effects
Even a cursory look at the social composition of students who are enrolled in the government
schools that were closed or merged is enough to tell us which groups are affected the
most by the closures. Needless to say, there is an overwhelming presence of Scheduled Castes,
Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and the religious minorities such as Muslims in the
government schools. Among them the percentage of girls is higher. A combination of factors
such as poverty, under-development, poverty induced migration, are already responsible
for educational backwardness
of these communities. Therefore,
when a school is closed in a Dalit
or tribal concentrated region
it further excludes them from
the opportunity of schooling.
Moreover, in the present context
where a hierarchy of so-called
‘good’ quality private schools
and poor quality government
schools exist, closing the only
accessible and affordable
government school will further
entrench the educational inequalities.
The impact of closure will be even more on these sections because they have remained
excluded from education for a long time. Several of these children whose schools are closed
are first generation learners.
Secondly, as it was reported by
community members, the existing
schools were mostly single
teacher schools with multi-grade
classrooms where the quality
of education was deplorable.
Thirdly, teacher absenteeism
was high and attitude towards
children was of apathy. It was
also reported by several state
as well non-state officials that
teachers are reluctant to travel
to these parts.
Impact of Closures and Mergers
on the Marginalised
“Most of the schools closed were in minority,
Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe regions.
In areas where there is awareness and the
community is active they asked for their school
back. In minority concentrated areas, they did
not know how to deal with this situation. The
government put the order online then, how
will these people have an access to it”.
- Noor Mohammad, Alwar Mewat Siksha and
Vikas Sansthan (AMID), Alwar
“Those who are mainly affected by this
policy of closures are Dalits and Adivasis. In
the past, we have conducted programmes to
bring children from these sections to school
but this whole process of school closures is
countering all our efforts. This policy is a very
dangerous step as most of the children who
are affected by closures never come back to
- Komal Srivastava, Bhartiya Gyan Vigyan Samiti
(BGVS), Jaipur
Chapter 10
Under all these circumstances, depriving the community of the primary school, the only hope
for inclusion in education, will only further push them towards illiteracy. The impact of closures
may not be acutely felt in the thickly populated and urban districts where one, schools are
located in close proximity to each other and second, the population might be economically
better off to afford services of the private in absence of the government schools. But in
rural parts, particularly, in the hamlets of Dalits and tribals, absence of a school will create
challenges for the populations. Not only the distance but natural barriers like farms, hills,
rivers, canals and forests together constitute the landscape around these habitations. Other
factors like caste dynamics also come into play. Children from the Dalit hamlet hesitate to
go to a merged school located in the upper caste village. The study conducted by BGVS,
Rajasthan, found that, when the predominantly Dalit schools were merged with upper caste
schools, Dalit children were beaten up by otherchildren in the merged school.
Moreover, as has been discussed already, the size of habitations particularly of tribals in the
isolated and hilly regions is small. Therefore, primary schools in such habitations may not
always conform to the enrolment norm of 10, 15, 20 or 25. As the cut goes on increasing
more and more schools located in these sparsely populated habitats will come under the
scheme of closure.
In a way, the closure of schools in the habitations of Dalits and tribes can be seen as a new
form of discriminating against these populations.
Within the SC, ST, OBC and minority groups, a group that gets most affected are the girl
children. Reflecting on schooling choices, Prof
Ramdas Rupavathof University of Hyderabad
notes, “the policy of rationalization and school
closures affect the girl children most”. He further
pointed out that gender based discrimination
in schooling choice exists where the boys are
sent to private schools and the girls are sent to
government schools.
This trend was observed by the Research Team as
well in most of the sites it visited. It can be inferred
from this that when a school closes down the girl
children may neither be sent to a private school
nor to the merged government school due to
issues of distance and risks associated with it32.
What is more alarming is that once the girl is out
32 A study conducted by NGO, Breakthrough, in 2014, revealed that half of the girls experienced sexual harassment on their way to and from the school.
Picture 3: Girls out of school on a working day,
Ranginiguda, Odisha
Impact of Closures and Mergers on the Marginalised
of school there is a strong likelihood that she will be married off at an early stage. As long as
they are in school, they can escape from getting married before the legal age. Other studies
conducted in parts of Odisha and Rajasthan have already shown that a negative implication
of school closure is early child marriage of the girls.
In Rajasthan, when the only girl schools were callously merged with co-educational schools
it led to drop out of many. As such the girl child confronts a very hostile and insensitive
patriarchal attitude even when she is at school. She has to face everyday sexism and
struggle her way to complete education, besides her everyday struggles to negotiate with
the structures of differentiation at home and in the community which continues to see her as
a ‘burden’ and a ‘liability’. Investment on girl child is seen as a waste and this perception has
been found to be rampant in the field sites as well.
In the event of school closures, the onus of continuing the education of the girl child largely
rest with the parents as the state and school authorities hardly seem to concern about
it. As such, the girl child is expected to take care of the younger siblings when she attains
school going age of even six years or if she survives in schooling till the age of ten years,
then she is expected to support the working, daily wage earning parents in domestic chores.
At times we even found the girl child is expected to provide nursing support to the ailing
grandparents. If after all these, she has some time left for herself, then she is allowed to set
foot in the school premises. Now with the school premises closed for her, to the dismay of
the Research Team, parents and community members openly state that they will not send
their girls to the far off places, to the so-called ‘merged’ schools even if they are located
within 1 KM as in many cases the Government functionaries have claimed. Because, for many
parents and community members, the difficult road/path/terrain of 1 KM that the growing
girl child will not augur well for the family, let alone for the child herself!
Another group whose needs have been completely
ignored in the closure/merger policy making is the
differently abled children. As discussed before, our
team came across one child, Rahul Jani, with speech
impairment in Jhimikguda village of Koraput who
dropped out after closure of the school he was
attending in his neighbourhood. While some of the
other children are going to the residential schools,
this option may not be available for this particular
family. In rural regions school closure will further
limit the opportunity of schooling for children
with disability. Though our Team came across one
instance of impact of the school closures on the differently abled children, if we consider
nation-wide impact, this certainly is another serious casualty of closures and mergers.
Picture 4: Rahul Jani, Jhimikiguda village, Odisha
A large number of parents and community members complained about the poor quality
of education, teacher absenteeism and indifference and unattractive government schools.
The Research Team concurs with this view largely and feels that the lack of supervison and
monitoring indeed creates an atmosphere of non-performativity and distrust of the public
school system. However, we did come across situations where government schools were
performing quite well and have the scope of growing better given the right kind and amount
of support. Nagulpally PS in Medak is one such example of better performing public school,
which in a way halted the spread of privatisation in the area.
Nagulpally primary school was branded by many parents as a‘good school’ or ‘top school’.
It remains a good option for the villagers and Tanda settlers in Mohamadabad, Narsingh
Tanda, but the children have to cover a long distance to reach this school.The school was
established in 1953 and presently has a total strength of 101 children and 4 teachers. For
the last seven years,the school has had only three teachers and, only in 2016, as part of
rationalization, a 4th teacher has been posted in the school. It is known for quality education,
experienced teachers and activity based learning. The teachers seem to be over-qualified
for primary teaching as all of them are holding a Master’s degree. Telugu is the medium of
instruction of the school and English is taught as a separate subject. Other subjects include
mathematics, environmental science, life skills and value education.
The enrolment figures of the school also seem to be rising as a result of the perception of it
being ‘good’ and ‘top’ in the area/cluster. In 2014-2015, the strength of the school was around
80-90 and this year it has gone up to 101. Table 6 shows that the school largely caters to
children from SC, ST and other backward communities. The teachers and headmaster shared
that there is a huge demand for this school as it is also ranked as the top school in Narsapur
The Private and the Public:
Comparative View of Closures
Chapter 11
Table 6: Category wise enrolments at primary level in Nagulpally PS (Merged)
Scheduled Castes Scheduled Tribes Backward Castes Other Castes TotalGrade
The Private and the Public: Comparative View of Closures
mandal for its good examination results. In fact, some 5 to 7 children also moved from private
schools to Nagulpally school.The case of Nagulpally is important to highlight as it shows
how a government run school with limited means and infrastructure is running successfully
and has a great potential to provide quality education if it is given more infrastructural and
staff support.
An important suggestion with policy implication that was made by the headmaster of
Balabhadraipalle school in Mahbubnagar, was: “The government should focus on strengthening
the existing government schools by upgrading their infrastructure and meeting the need for teachers,
providing computers, etc”.
As discussed earlier, proliferation of private schools has been one of the factors responsible
for declining strength of pupils in government schools. During the course of the study several
stakeholders opined that there is a growing belief among the parents that private is better
although whether it is actually so is doubtful. From conversations with parents some of the
key points that make private schools more attractive emerged. First of all, in rural parts
and remote regions parents
are attracted by the promise of
transportation provided by the
private school owners ranging
from buses of high end private
schools to small autos or mini
vans of low fee schools, acted
as a motivating factor. A feeling
that since parents are investing
money they engage more with
the child and the school teachers
in private also exists.
The other aspects included
a sense of fear and discipline
instilled in the students which
according to the parents was
lacking in government schools.
However, from conversations
with children it emerged shared
that discipline and fear is instilled
through punishment. In some
cases, children’s body language
spoke volumes about how they
are disciplined in private schools.
In private schools the quality is the same
but now parents have developed confidence
in private system. This is due to the fact
that teacher absenteeism is not there and
regularity of children is maintained in private
schools. Therefore, parents believe that the
private schools function seriously. But in
terms of children’s competence there is no
significant difference between the private and
the public schooling.
Under-qualified teachers are recruited who
are only making children sit for hours and
hours and conduct repetitive exercises of
reading and writing. So there is violence
against the children in form of pressure,
discipline and lack of freedom. Even the
performance, whatever little it may be, is
a result of this pressure. But participatory
methods or contemporary pedagogy has not
been adopted.
- Professor Upendra Reddy, SCERT, Telangana
In contrast to the children in government schools, a child studying in private would stand
straight with hands behind his/her back. The sense of fear was also interpreted by some
teachers as the fear of failing. Two teachers in Dhangidisahi school in Odisha commented
that because of the no-detention-policy of the government there is no fear of failing or
performing better in schools.
The association of prestige and social status with education in private school was also
cited by some. According to a government school teacher in Khurda, parents have not only
become conscious of their children’s education but believe in a culture of flaunting which she
calls the “hi-bye culture” of private schools. In terms of quality she asserted that the private
schools are no way better than the government ones and added that “English medium does
not mean better education”.
The study team found the argument that the medium of instruction promised in the private
schools works in different ways. While in states like Odisha, Odia medium schooling is largely
offered by the private schools in Khurda as this seems to be the demand of the parents, while
Vivekananda Vidya Niketan, Radapada, Banswara
Vivekananda Vidya Niketan in Ghatol block of Banswara is a primary school run
within the premises of the owner’s house with two rooms. There is no boundary
wall surrounding the house. Few children from the closed school in Radapada are
going to this school after closure. The school is registered under Vishwa Hindu
Parishad. An annual fee of 3000 is charged from each child. There is one teacher
and a visually challenged person, Kalu Ram, who acts as an assistant. Kalu Ram is
preparing to appear in the 10th class board examination.
On the day of the visit, 17 children were present and the teacher mentioned that
there are around 22 children in all. One wonders if it can be called a school as
there was no child friendly infrastructure in place. The children were huddled in
a small congested space. There are no trained teachers in the school. Food was
being cooked in a pot placed on a traditional chulha and a small girl in the school
uniform was seen fiddling with the ladle.
Clad in yellow shirts all the children were sitting together in the patio like space
of the house. There were two separate rows of boys and girls. They were seated
on a single mattress spread on a kachha floor, not large enough to accommodate
all the children. Later one or two children spread sacks on the floor and sat on
them. When the research team visited the school, the children were singing a Hindu
religious prayer. This was followed by an oath taking ceremony in which children
recited one patriotic pledge after another.
33 As per the official website of the organization, “it is running more than 596 primary schools, 156 secondary schools and 23 senior secondary schools
catering to the needs of nearly 1.5 lakh tribal students in various states”.
The Private and the Public: Comparative View of Closures
in Rajasthan and Telangana, the
promise of English language
instruction seems to be drawing
the parents to the private schools.
In these states, it is found that
the competition seems to be not
between the private and public
schools, but it seems mainly
between the private schools
offering vernacular medium and
the English medium education.
When we compared two private
schools with the government
ones, the latter seemed to be way better in terms of physical infrastructure. The case study
of Vivekananda Vidya Niketan a school affiliated to Vishwa Hindu Parishad school network in
Banswara gives a glimpse of the burgeoning low fee private schools in rural areas. According
to the owner of Vivekananda Vidya Niketan in Radapada, there are around 200 such schools
in Banswara33.
It was observed in districts like Rangareddy and Medak in Telangana and Alwar in Rajasthan
that there has been a large number of closures of private schools as well after the
implementation of RTE Act in 2010. The reasons for closures of private schools are many.
Firstly, the private unaided and unrecognised schools were closed down in all the states as
According to Pradipta Nayak, there are
certain norms private schools should abide
by. But the government is not properly
monitoring these schools. If the Government
has a strict monitoring mechanism for private
schools, most of the private schools will be
closed down as they are not following norms.
Most private schools also do not have trained
teachers. This view was corroborated not only
by activists, but also teachers in government
schools and other state level officials.
Picture 5: Vivekananda Vidya Niketan running in what can be barely called a two room structure
is a stark contrast to the infrastructure of closed Radapada school, Banswara, Rajasthan
part of the overall compliance
of RTE norms within the three
years of implementation of RTE
Act. This has closed down many
unrecognised schools in 2013-14.
States have provided some ease
for the unrecognised schools
to get themselves recognised
within three years after fulfilling
the RTE norms, but a few could
comply and seek recognition, but
many have closed down mainly
voluntarily. The Team found
that there was no systematic
official monitoring from the
Government side to effect the
compliance and recognition. The
role of the state machinery was
limited to making fervent appeals
to comply with RTE norms
through public announcements
and advertisements in the media.
In Shankarpalle in Rangareddy
district of Telangana, the Team
found that several low budget
schools which were started as
mainly ‘tuition’ centres in small
villages could not comply with
the government orders and
therefore had to close down. The
example of ‘Day Spring School’
in Elwarthy in Shankarpalle
mandal is an interesting case for
There was another case reported in the Shankarpalle town. The case of Vijayabhaskar High
Value school. When the Team visited, in the site where the school was said to have run, there
exists today some shops and residential apartments. Upon enquiry, the Team was told that
the school was merged with another school in the town, called Ramakrishna Public School
and the merger of this school was said to have involved ‘buying and selling’ mode of the
Market. For the merger of the Vijayabhaskar High Value School, the owner said to have got a
huge price and in return convinced all parents to move children enrolled in his school enmass
into the Ramakrishna Public School.
Day Spring School, Elwarthy,
Shankarpalle Mandal, Rangareddy
The Team sought to locate a school under the
name ‘Day Spring School’ in a small Panchayat
village, 10 KMs away from Shankarpalle
town, which was shown as a closed school
in the list provided by the Government
machinery. Inspite of serious search by the
Team in the village, the school could not be
traced. Upon enquiry, it was learnt that the
so-called school was closed some three years
ago after it did not seek recognition as per
the RTE norms. The villagers mentioned that
it was not a proper school, but was a small
crèche for children of school going age and
not the pre-school age children, and it was
housed in one room of a private house on
rent. The community members said that it
was set up by an unemployed youth of the
neighbouring village, who ‘owned’ three such
schools in three different adjoining villages.
But, as the State government stated that the
children attending such unrecognised schools
will not be admitted in the regular schools
forced many parents to withdraw and this led
to the closure of the school. Due to the costs
involved in seeking the grant of recognition,
the owner of the Day Spring School also
closed it one fine day leaving the children to
fend for themselves.
The Private and the Public: Comparative View of Closures
The Team has also heard from community members that some schools in Narsapur town
in Medak district too were closed down as the schools that were primarily offering Telugu
medium education could not survive competition from the so-called English medium schools.
The competition between the vernacular and English medium private schools in towns led
some of the private schools to convert themselves into English medium schools or to run
two sections for each class - one for vernacular medium instruction and the other for the
English medium instruction.
Thus, the study finds that broadly the private schools are closed either because they do/
did not comply with the RTE norms or did not seek to get formal recognition,or voluntarily
closed down as the business was not viable or was unable to compete with the big corporate
schools,or were unable to provide medium of instruction sought by the parents. The working
of market principles indeed pervades closure of private schools, which make these cases
different from the case of government school closures.
1. The policy of school closure (we assume that the nomenclature of ‘merger’, which is often
used by the policy establishment in different states is nothing but ‘closure’ of a school)
in the name of low enrolments is a contravention of the very fundamental provision of
the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE). The section 3 (1) of the RTE Act
2009 stipulates that ‘every child of age six to fourteen years shall have a right to free
and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school till completion of elementary
education’. What the policy did in the name of mergers is to deprive the children of
a particular school in the name of it having a low enrolment or to improve quality of
education and governance by merging it with another school which is away from the
neighbourhood to which the child belongs.
2. The idea of neighbourhood itself has been strangely interpreted by the Rules framed
by various state governments. First, they defined ‘neighbourhood’ in terms of distance
of say 1KM, which is not sociologically or spatially tenable and then made a policy that
winds up all those schools in their respective neighbourhoods in the name of mergers.
The neighbourhoods of 1KM can be as diverse as they may be in the case of those
spread beyond several kilometres as well. Sociologically speaking, the neighbourhood
is a homogeneous space where the child gets socialised and seeks to gain his/her first
lessons of social living and adult behaviour and schooling in such neighbourhood is most
desirable for a child who is of tender age of 5-10 years.
What the Research Team found in the study was that at many places the merged schools
were far beyond the 1 KM radius of the closed school. That means, there has been lack
of uniformity in applying and interpreting the RTE norms and the rules framed by the
respective state governments.
3. The closure/merger policy is also a contravention of the fundamental spirit behind the
section 6 of the RTE Act, which stipulates that ‘for carrying out the provisions of this Act,
the appropriate Government and the local authority shall establish, within such area or
limits of neighbourhood, as may be prescribed, a school, where it is not so established,
within a period of three years from the commencement of this Act’. What we find in
reality, three years from the date of implementation of the RTE, is a total contrary step
undertaken by the Governments in different states. Instead of building more schools to
make section 3 of the RTE a reality, the Governments discovered the method of closing
down existing schools to systematically subvert the intent expressed under the section 6.
One doesn’t understand why such overt subversion contravening the policy enunciated
by an Act. We have clearly explained in the previous sections of the Report as to how
closure policy was implemented in different states.
4. The sections 3 and 8 of the RTE make it mandatory for the Government to provide free
Chapter 12
School Closures/Mergers and
Violations of Right to Education (RTE)
School Closures/Mergers and Violations of Right to Education (RTE)
and compulsory education to every child. The section 8(b) entails the state to ensure
availability of a neighbourhood school and 8(c) ensures that the child belonging to
weaker sections and the child belonging to disadvantaged group are not discriminated
against and prevented from pursuing and completing elementary education on any
grounds. Both 8 (b) and (c) are clearly violated as the state withdrew the neighbourhood
school for children in their own locality no matter what it interprets as neighbourhood
in its subsequent Rules of implementation of RTE. What we argue here is that the basic
spirit of the RTE is compromised by manipulating the spirit of the Act in the form of Rules
or policies such as closure/merger.
Further, it is important to note that, as discussed earlier in the Report, the most affected
due to the closures has been the socially and economically weaker sections and
disadvantaged. Seen from this perspective, we find the spirit of 8 (c) is also violated
through the policy of school closures and mergers.
Picture 6: Children loitering in the settlement and the fields in Telangana and Rajasthan
5. An indirect effect of the school closures has been that it had triggered massive expansion
of the private sector, which also thrives on one of the provisions of the RTE Act, namely
Section 12 (1c) as well as 12 (2), which may be read together. The 12 (1c) and 12 (2)
entail the state to facilitate education of children in a private unaided school.But, in
reality, the Team found that this was hardly the case. The provision and subsequent fee
re-imbursement by the state to the private schools has not been facilitated for those
who got affected by closures and who wish to take up admission in a private school.
The formulation of the closure policy does not take into cognisance the fact that some
of those who are affected by closures may wish to seek admission in a neighbourhood
unaided private school. This suggests a case of policy myopia.
6. Many state governments flout the norms set by the RTE very openly. One simple evidence
may be found in the very idea of single teacher schools. In Telangana and Odisha, there
are numerous schools which continue to be single teacher schoolsat the primary section.
This also has been a serious violation as instead of facilitating one more teacher, the
state comes up with the so-called rationalisation policy of providing two teachers to
those schools with enrolments ‘upto 60’. The interpretation of this norm as one teacher
per 30 children is in fact a contravention of the spirit of this norm, as ‘upto 60’ does not in
fact set any lower limit for the school strength. What it does is to provide an upper limit
of sixty. The norms of 0-5, 0-10, 0-15, 0-20, 0-25 or 0-30 to effect closures as the states
under this present study did thus is a serious lapse and violation of the spirit of the norms
set in RTE 2009.
School Closures/Mergers and Violations of Right to Education (RTE)
Chapter 13
The policy of Closures/ Mergers has thus serious implications for the educational futures
of the disadvantaged populations. We therefore suggest a few measures for advocacy by
the civil society organisations, rights activists, academia and other stakeholders.
• It is important to note that the serious issue of school closures and mergers has
still not caught the imagination of several stake holders and is a cause of concern.
Thus, it is imperative for bringing together all stakeholders and apprise them of the
implications and consequences of the policy and its long term effects for educational
futures of disadvantaged and marginalised populations. Save the Children may take lead
in reaching out to the stakeholders including the state policy making establishments and
negotiate to put an end to indiscriminate closures and mergers of schools or atleast
for moderating the implementation norms of the policy. That means, the first step in the
advocacy for withdrawal of the policy or dilution of the policy is to convince the policy
makers of the consequences of such a policy.
• Theneedforprojectingtheimpactofthispolicyonthefuturesofremoteandsocially
disadvantaged sections like SCs, STs, Minorities, etc must be highlighted through media
campaigns and at appropriate policy formulation as well as implementation forums.
The second step may seek to address the perception change through popular media
campaigns which may have some impact on retracting or redrafting the policy.
• We observed that the local communities are also least interested in countering the
retrograde policy of closures. They either are disinterested or have accepted privatisation
as the alternative, which again will not help in strengthening the public education system.
Therefore, the local communities through their SMCs and Panchayat members need to
be made aware of the long term effects of closures on the futures of their children.
• Thecrucialcasualtyoftheclosuresandmergershasbeenthechildandhis/herparents.
The policy promises numerous provisions, but on ground, one finds, as the study revealed,
none of those promises are fulfilled. Measures such as fixing the responsibility on
somebody to track child population should be undertaken rather than blindly accepting
the DISE data which is said to be manipulated at times by the teachers for the benefit
of seeking transfer if the school is closed. So, demand for child tracking afresh, atleast
in the villages/habitations where the schools are closed may help in placing the record
straight on the effectiveness of the implementation. In case the children are there in the
habitation which the closed school had catered to earlier, then the local partners of Save
the Children may initiate steps to get it re-opened.
• Therehasto beaconcertedeffortto workinstateslikeRajasthanwherethepolicy
implementation has been bizarre and ambiguous. There is a danger of closure of all
Issues and Recommendations
for Advocacy
primary schools in the state if the trend of merging with the secondary and senior
secondary schools continues. This has to be made a central campaign tool for negotiating
with the state agencies as it is important for elementary education to be imparted to
young children of 6-14 years in their own neighbourhood itself.
• Another issue for advocacy with the state functionaries is also to negotiate for not
displacing children in the name of admitting them in Model Schools or Residential/
Ashram schools or Tribal Hostels or Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas. It is found in this
study that these schools too have been a cause of dwindling numbers in neighbourhood
schools across all states.
• ManystateshavenotinitiatedofferingTravelAllowancetochildrenwholiveindifcult
and distant places from the school. Odisha and Telangana seem to have some policy,
but it is found that none of the children who were affected by the school closures in the
sites visited by the Team have even ever heard of such provision. In Rajasthan, the State
government is contemplating one such provision for Travel Voucher. This needs to be
ensured through the partner organisations at the grassroots so that money under this
Head reaches the deserving children and parents.
• ItmaynotalsobefutileifSavetheChildrencanbringaboutallpoliticalpartiestogether
at the state, district and block levels for advocacy on the issue of school closures and
mergers. This will at least lead to some moderation or even withdrawal of the policy.
There can be many more, but we will desist from making this list too big as any measure of
advocacy cannot be the sole prerogative of the study Team, but shall include all stakeholders
so that an amicable action plan can be worked out at different levels of policy framing
and implementation. However, we recommend a few steps for Save the Children to initiate
to make the issue known among the stakeholders. Here are those few specific steps for
advocacy, to begin with:
1. A documentary film on the issue of school closures and mergers could be made and
circulated as far and wide as possible for greater and easier reach of advocacy.
2. There can be half day or one day sharing workshops of the study findings in the state
Head Quarters of the states that are covered for the study. A wider group comprising the
official functionaries, civil society organisations, political parties, people’s representatives,
academics and SMCs, Panchayat representatives, women, dalit and tribal activists.
3. A workshop to identify the issues for further research on impact of state policies on
children from vulnerable groups such as SCs,STs, differently abled, women, and religious
minorities. Some of the studies may include or go beyond the states that have already
been covered under this study.
Issues and Recommendations for Advocacy
Annexure 1
Table 1. Literacy Rates - Rajasthan, Odisha and Telangana
Rajasthan Literacy
Odisha Literacy
Sawai Madhopur
Annexure 2
Number of schools closed and those in the Pipeline in Odisha
District No. Of Schools
(Having Enrolment
<= 5) Closed as Per
Ofcial Records
The Next Level of
Possible Closures
(No. Of <= 10
Enrolment Schools)
The Possible Third
Phase of Closures
(No. Of > 10 &<= 20
Enrolment Schools)
Annexure 3
Distribution of schools by number of teachers and enrolment range (2014-15) (all management)
Distribution by number of teachers Distribution by enrolmentSerial
No. District 0 1 02 1-20
Annexure 4
District wise list of schools merged in Rajasthan
District No. of Primary
Schools Merged
No. of Upper Primary
schools merged
Sawai Madhopur
15057 34
34 However, it is informed that about 384 schools were re-star ted due to the pressures from community members and political parties and representatives,
thus making the total number of schools closed 14,673.
Annexure 5
Annexure 6
Details of Transport and Escort Facility - Odisha
No. of children to be
provided Transport/
Escort Facility
proposed in PAB
Project Aprroval
Board Approved
Total amount
(Unit Cost @Rs.3000
per child per annum)
All districts
4, 143,000
List of persons interviewed
1) Dr. Murlikrishna, UNICEF
2) Mr.Murli Mohan Chikku, Chief Excecutive, Sadhana
3) Prof. Bhangya Bhukya, Historian of Lambada history, Hyderabad Central University
4) Prof. Laxminarayana, Hyderabad Central University and State Convenor, Save Education
5) Prof. Ramdass, Expert on Tribal Education, Hyderabad Central University
6) Dr. N. Upendra Reddy, Professor, SCERT, Telangana
7) K. Krishna Mohan Rao, Professor, SCERT, Telangana
8) Dr. S. Suresh Babu, Professor,SCERT, Telangana
9) Mr.Bhaskar Rao, Additional State Project Director in SSA, Telangana
10) Mr.Satyanarayana, Academic Coordinator, SSA, Medak