Education of students from poor background suffers due to closure of government schools: Karnataka High Court

The Court today slammed the State for its failure to redress concerns over the lack of drinking water and toilets in government schools.
Class room
Class room

The lack of basic facilities such as toilets and drinking water in government schools is one of the reasons why government schools often close while private schools flourish, the Karnataka High Court observed on Monday.

The bench of Chief Justice PB Varale and Justice Krishna S Dixit added that the Court has nothing against private schools.

The concern is more to do with what would happen to children whose parents cannot afford private school education, the Court explained.

"For a person not having the earnings to make two meals a day, he will have to shell out from his pocket, compromise on two meals and put his children to private school. Private schools may not cut down on fees. Some may get education out of the block for needy students. Rest of the students, and their parents are sufferers. Are we not creating a situation of haves and have-nots?This is one of the ways they close government schools and private schools are flourishing," Chief Justice Varale orally remarked.

It is only the poorer children who stand to lose, he noted, since they do not have an option of going to private schools.

"Is it because you want to see young boys and girls, only because they belong to weaker education, they are not to take education in this country? Is it only for privileged ones? If I have money, I can put my children to best schools. If I don't have money, I can't educate my child? Is it as simple as that? This is unfortunate, last time also we expressed our anguish and sorrow," he said, addressing the State government counsel.

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Justice Dixit echoed the Chief Justice's concerns, remarking,

"Why this is happening in this country? Right to education is a fundamental right! You don't want to provide teachers, drinking facilities - what are we going to do? Where are we going? During the World War, England had provided a higher allocation of the budget to education and lesser budget to defence forces. What is happening to us? Education is the only way. That is why Dr. Ambedkar is always holding a book. Because education is that important. It is essential."

The Court was hearing a 2013 suo motu public interest litigation concerning the failure to implement provisions of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, which resulted in a large number of children being out of school. 

The Court on Monday also criticised the State for not monitoring whether earlier budgetary allocations for education in Karnataka were being properly used.

"Whether anyone checked whether the allocated funds were actually incurred? ... Is it for us to tell all this to the State? This is going on for years together! This is known to everybody. Problem is, after that, nothing happens. Things are only remaining on paper ... This is not something that we have to yell to them," Chief Justice Varale observed.

The Court eventually adjourned the matter after ordering the State government to examine an amicus curiae report and file a comprehensive report in eight weeks.

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) was also ordered to file a report on the schools run by it.

"We further make it clear at the cost of repetition that granting time to the government for submission of report may not be treated as an excuse for not taking steps to provide basic facilities to the schools such as drinking water or the washroom or toilet facilities, the Court added.

The Court further ordered that a survey of government schools already initiated be completed within two months.

According to a report filed in the Court, 464 government schools were initially found to lack toilet facilities while 87 lacked drinking water facilities. After a survey, 55 of the 87 schools were later found to have enough drinking water, though the problem remained in 32 schools.

The Court was also told that about ₹80 crores was earlier allotted for the construction of new toilets in schools.

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news