Construction underway for only 39% of proposed 452 Eklavya schools for tribal students

In union budget 2018-19, the centre announced that every block with over 50% ST population and at least 20,000 tribal persons, will have an Ekalavya school by 2022.

There are 1,05,000 students enrolled in 392 Eklavya Model Residential Schools. (Representative Image: Shutterstock)There are 1,05,000 students enrolled in 392 Eklavya Model Residential Schools. (Representative Image: Shutterstock)

Sanjay | December 12, 2022 | 08:55 PM IST

New Delhi: The central government has been able to sanction only 396 out of 452 Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs) it proposed to set up in 2018 under the new EMRS scheme, noted a parliamentary committee on Monday.

Of the 396 sanctioned EMRS, Administrative Approval and Expenditure Sanction (A/A& E/S) has been issued for 275 locations but the construction work has commenced on 180 locations. This means that the construction work is underway at 39% while approval has been issued for 60% of the proposed 452 schools in four years.

The committee noted the “slow progress of construction of EMRS” and asked the ministry of tribal affairs (MoTA) which is implementing the EMRS scheme to take suitable steps to start the construction work at the remaining 95 locations.

MoTA also informed the committee that out of 288 schools sanctioned in 1997-98, the construction work has been completed in 214 schools. The construction work of 56 EMRS is in progress and 18 schools’ construction could not be started due to land issues.

New Ekalavya Schools

While the union budget 2018-19 had set the deadline of 2022 for the construction of new EMRS and tribal affairs minister Arjun Munda also asserted the same in Parliament in July 2021. MoTA in its reply to the Parliamentary committee said that it has not fixed any deadline but union cabinet has extended the deadline by 2025-26. “The Ministry has not fixed the target of setting up all 452 schools by 2022. In the Cabinet Note 2022, funds for setting up 452 new schools were provided and construction time-line was fixed in a phased manner,” Ministry said.

“Cabinet has approved setting up of 452 schools by 2025-26 in a phased manner,” MoTA added.

The ministry said that some states have pleaded inability to provide land in the designated blocks for the construction of EMRSs. The committee reminded the ministry that it should have factored in likely impediments at the initial planning stage as availability of land free from all encumbrances particularly in hilly terrain has always been one of the obstacles for construction of EMRS.

The construction of the school takes about two years for pre-construction and construction activities and construction work is underway in 236 EMRSs (56 old and 180 new), MoTA informed.

EMRS scheme

The EMRS scheme was introduced in 1997-98 to impart quality education, with an emphasis on the holistic development of tribal students living in remote blocks across the country.

In the union budget of 2018-19, the central government announced that every block with more than 50% ST population and at least 20,000 tribal persons, will have an EMRS by 2022. In December 2018, central government approved the revamping of EMRS scheme under which it was decided that the government will set up Eklavya Model Day Boarding Schools (EMDBS) in sub-districts with 90% or more ST population and 20,000 or more tribal persons. Consequently, the government approved the setting up of 452 new EMRS/EMDBS in sub-districts. All existing (288) and new schools (452) have been brought under the EMRS scheme.

Also Read | Enrolment in government schools increase post covid-19; decline in private schools during 2021-22: MoE

A National Education Society for Tribal Students (NESTS) has been established which would coordinate with state EMRS societies to manage these schools. Out of 28 posts sanctioned for NESTS, 16 posts have already been filled and recruitment of 9 posts is in its final stage.

Currently, there are 1,05,000 students enrolled in 392 EMRSs and the government is aiming to set up 740 EMRSs to benefit more than 3.5 lakh Scheduled Caste (ST) students.

‘Delay in establishing online learning system’

In its April 2022 report, the Parliament panel had noted that the tribal students enrolled in EMRSs suffered “irreversibly” during Covid-19 pandemic as due to delay in the establishment of online learning resources. MoTA informed the panel that the process to establish Atal Tinkering Labs has commenced in 18 EMRS spread across 8 states.

The committee said that “not much progress” has been made even today and MoTA has collaborated with the Education and Research Network (ERNET), Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) for establishment of smart classes in only 175 EMRSs.

Expressing concern for educational empowerment of the tribal students, the Committee said that any further delay in providing these facilities in all the EMRS would “deprive students from latest technology in education which have become very essential in the current scenario.”

Also Read | COVID-19: Funds, tests, school clustering in education ministry’s ‘learning recovery plan’

Centre of Excellence (CoE) for sports

The revamped scheme of EMRS also includes the setting up CoE for sports in tribal majority districts with all related infrastructure.

Expressing disappointment over that MoTA is yet to finalise the proposal for establishment of CoEs received only from 6 States and all other States have now been asked to submit their proposals. The committee said that it is “not happy with the lackadaisical approach” of the tribal ministry in handling the CoE Project.

CBSE, Central-government run schools

One of the norms stipulated for EMRS is affiliation under the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). However, the tribal ministry has been unable to convince the States of Bihar, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal to shift to the CBSE curriculum from the State Board.

“The Committee feels that by disagreeing to affiliate their EMRS under CBSE , these States would forfeit the benefits under the EMRS scheme which would otherwise have given a significant boost to the educational infrastructure of tribal areas and benefit a number of tribal students who constitute one of the most socially vulnerable groups,” the report said.

The committee calls upon MoTA to “vigorously pursue” the matter with these States and encourage them to shift to CBSE so that there is uniformity across all EMRSs in the country.

According to the new EMRS scheme, Eklavya schools will be developed to be on par with Centrally-government run Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs). However, the school admission guidelines are still awaiting the academic committee’s approval. MoTA informed that the guidelines have been formulated on the lines of Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) which manages JNVs and it will be implemented from next academic session, that is 2023-2024.

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