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Bengal: More Than 7000 primary Schools Disappeared in Last 10 Years, ABPTA Claims it's 'Intentional'

The highest number of schools, 1,192 in total, was shut down in South 24 Parganas, of which 13 blocks fall under the impoverished Sundarban region.
HN School

More than 7,000 primary schools have disappeared in the last ten years in West Bengal, according to official data. The highest number of schools have been closed in South 24 Parganas, where 13 blocks are in the impoverished Sundarban area.

The matter came to light when the state education department recently announced fresh plans for mid-day meals. According to the state’s Department of Education, 7,018 primary schools have been shut in the last ten years. In 2012, the number of primary schools in the state was 74,717. In March 2022, it dropped to 67,699. The highest number was seen in South 24 Parganas where 1,192 schools shut down. Further, 13 blocks in South 24 Parganas district fall under the Sundarban region, where extremely poor people live. 

The number of primary schools has decreased significantly in West Midnapore as well. When the district was not divided in 2012 and Jhargram was not yet formed, the number of primary schools here was 8,404. Now, West Midnapore and Jhargram are two separate districts. According to the 2022 statistics, there are 5,411 schools in West Midnapore and 1,946 in Jhargram, with the total of the two being 7,357. That means 1,047 schools have been reduced, whereas the number of schools is supposed to increase if new districts are formed.

In the last ten years, as many as 867 schools in East Midnapore closed down. In 2012, there were 5,619 schools, which drastically came down to 4,752 in 2022.

The number of primary schools has decreased in the last ten years in all the districts except Purulia. However, only one new school was set up in Purulia in the same period. The total number of schools here was 3,490 in 2012, which increased to 3,491 in 2022. The government also claimed that 83 new schools have been built in the Siliguri sub-divisional council area.

But why were so many schools closed? A (former) teacher at one of the closed schools told People's Reporter, “Our school did not have a permanent home. The school was running at a local temple. Once the renovation work on the temple started. The school was then run from a local resident’s house. After that, the number of students gradually decreased. Then the school was completely closed.”

The lack of school buildings as well as teachers and students is the main reason for the closure of schools.

In this regard, All Bengal Primary Teachers Association (ABPTA) state secretary Mohan Das Pandit told the People’s Reporter, “The ruling TMC government is deliberately destroying the education system. This has happened due to the wrong policies of the government. There is no infrastructure in government primary schools. There are no subject-wise textbooks for class one and two. The teacher-student ratio in most schools is not right. Those who do not have merit have been illegally appointed as teachers. For all these reasons, a large number of parents are dissatisfied with government schools. They think that there is no benefit in going to government schools.”

Moreover, ABPTA state president Debashish Dutta said, “The state government wants to implement the new education policy of the Centre through this. The present state government wants to give up primary schools. The Left Front government formed a village education committee to run village primary schools. Committees were formed with educated people. Now that committee does not exist. The ruling party’s panchayat members or councillors run the school." He added, "We have approached the government repeatedly demanding the development of primary education, but nothing has happened.”

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