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Odisha Government Continues to Shut down Schools, Denying Right to Education

Established in 1991, the only primary school of Khasua village in Odisha received a closure notice, depriving children their right to education.

Mami, a 9-year- old girl is not going to school anymore. Her parents are worried as the school was closed as per government orders in 2016 due to the low enrollments. Along with Mami, 10 other children from Khasua village, Odisha are deprived of education. Situated in, Sambalpur, Redhakhol block, Khasua village comprises of Tribals and Dalit families. Most children here are dependent on the only government primary school in the area for education.

Over the past few decades, government schools are facing closure due to multiple reasons, leading to a steep decline in student's attendance. This process of closing down schools is plaguing the education system in Odisha, especially in the tribal districts. The primary school in Khasua village received a similar notice because of the slim attendance of the students. Children are now forced to study either outside the village or they are forced to quit their education. "Few children study in other places. But those who cannot afford that, their children are roaming around the village," said Promod, resident of the Khasua village.

Community Correspondent Mamta Patra, met the District Project Coordinator of Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, Sambalpur, to ask her about the closing of the government school. “Since there were only five students the government closed it down”, said Kalpana Panda. Further, when Mamta asked if they have done any baseline survey of children in the village, Kalpana Panda reiterated this by saying that this should be discussed with the Panchayat and School Management Committee (SMC) members of the Khasua village. The 2009 Right to Education (RTE) Act mandates equal opportunity in education for children in India and held the government accountable to make this happen. But by closing down schools the right to education is being violated causing an adverse impact on children.

Odisha State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (OSCPCR) suggested doing an impact assessment before closing any government schools in the state. Regardless of this, in 2016 - 2017 as many as 828 government schools with fewer than ten students have been closed in the state. With such action in force, there are no alternatives made in places where schools are being closed. Children below 14 years of age in Khasua village are now indulging the household chores, and grazing cattle instead of going to school.

While government schools in rural areas have failed to impart quality education, parents are now preferring private schools but are struggling to afford it. The need of the hour is to bring the students back to schools and attempt to provide basic education to all.

Video by Community Correspondent Mamta Patra.

Article by Grace Jolliffe, a member of VV Editorial Team.

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