UP: No Warm Uniforms for School Kids This Winter As Many Parents Haven’t Received Funds
Representational Image. Image Courtesy: PxHere
Lucknow: As the temperature takes a sharp dip, students of state government-run primary schools remain without sweaters, shoes, and socks. The majority of these children in the state belong to poor families and wear simple shirts and slippers to school.
According to the Education Department records, there are 1 crore 91 lakh students enrolled in 1,35,000 primary schools (class I to VIII) in Uttar Pradesh. Out of these, parents of only 90,000 students have received funds to purchase uniforms and school bags.
The state government had earlier this year declared that Rs 1,100 will be used to credit the bank accounts of students' parents to purchase uniforms. These included shirts, trousers (two sets), sweaters, shoes, socks, and a school bag. Lakhs of students across the state are still waiting for this transfer.
"The temperature has fallen below 20 degrees Celsius. Students coming to school in the morning can be seen shivering. The majority of them come wearing just a shirt, trousers, and slippers. Parents of most of these children are daily wage labourers. Authorities must ensure that the amount is provided to them without any further delay," Virendra Mishra, national spokesperson of Rashtriya Shaikshik Mahasangh (RSM), a national-level outfit of primary school teachers, told NewsClick.
When asked the reason behind the delay, Mishra said that Aadhaar enrolment is compulsory for UP school admission in classes I to VIII – age six to 14 years – to access benefits under the Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009, which now come as direct benefit transfers (DBTs) from the state. This money amounting to Rs 1,100 is meant to cover the cost of school supplies such as uniforms and textbooks.
"Aadhaar cards of lakhs of children in the state are either not made or are under process. Therefore, they are not eligible for Rs 1,100 under DBT. However, this is in violation of the Supreme Court’s September 2018 ruling, which says Aadhaar is not compulsory for school admissions. The SC had said no child could be denied benefits of any scheme for not having an Aadhaar number," the RSM spokesperson further added.
The union alleged that the top authorities had instructed the Basic Shiksha Adhikari (BSA) to set up camps at the village level so that students can get an Aadhaar card. But nothing seems to be working on the ground. "Those children completed all the formalities for the Aadhaar card on their own; yet, they did not receive the amount. The compulsory Aadhaar enrolment to get money for uniforms adds an extra hurdle for students and their parents.”
Another teacher from the Deoria district told NewsClick, "Teachers are getting threats that salary will be withheld if we fail to complete the formalities of getting Aadhaar cards for children. How are we responsible if a student does not receive the amount for a dress? We can only encourage students and their parents but can not hold them accountable," he said on the condition of anonymity.
Earlier, uniforms, shoes, socks, sweaters and school bags were provided to the students through their schools for free. To carry forward the scheme, the Yogi government decided last year that parents of students will be given a total amount through direct benefit transfer (DBT).
In Agra district, more than 2.5 lakh children are enrolled in 2,491 schools. Out of these, more than one lakh could not get sweaters, socks, shoes and other uniforms even after half the academic year has passed. "Children are reaching school without wearing sweaters and shoes and socks. Rs 1,100 have been sent by the government to the accounts of parents to purchase school uniforms. However, the funds have not yet reached the accounts of the parents of 59,000 students here. The parents of the children who have received the money say that the expenditure on school dress and shoes and socks is coming up to Rs 1,500 to 1,800," Prabhakar Tiwari, a school teacher in Agra told NewsClick.
Rajeev Verma, general secretary of the United Teachers Association (UTA) said that most of the parents of students have not received the money so that they can buy winter uniforms. Therefore, it is a common sight in school that children are coming barefoot and without sweaters.
Meanwhile, Agra BSA Praveen Kumar Tiwari said that in order to avoid any kind of inconvenience to the children, the DBT has been processed. Those who have not received it must not have linked their accounts, he claimed.
NewsClick spoke to nearly dozens of parents in many districts including Deoria, Ballia, Gorakhpur, Bahraich, and Barabanki, among others. They all claimed they have not received money for two years. Those who have received it, claimed that Rs 1,100 were not sufficient to buy everything.
"It was better when the school administration was accountable to buy uniforms. We used to get dresses sooner or later. But since the government changed the scheme and started sending money to the account, we have been running from pillar to post to get that money," Rashmi, a daily wager whose three children are enrolled in a primary school in Deoria, told NewsClick, adding that none of her kids has sweaters, shoes and socks.
A similar situation prevails in other districts of UP as well where students have not been provided new books and uniforms.
"The attitude of the government towards education is nothing but only full of hollow rhetoric. They don't want poor kids to study. We are daily wage labourers and can not afford to spend Rs 1,500 to buy uniforms and stationery. We earn only enough to cover the expenses of the house. If the government is not serious, what can our children do but become daily wagers like their parents?" Ramesh, whose three daughters are enrolled in a primary school in Ballia district, questioned.
Under the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, the government has made a provision of 166 crore for the stationery of children in the state budget 2022-23. Apart from this, the government has made a provision of about Rs 2,200 crore for uniforms, shoes/stockings, and sweaters for the students.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had launched the School Chalo Abhiyan last year in the Shravasti district to ensure 100% enrolment at primary and upper primary schools in the state. However, amid the abysmal conditions and poor management by the government, the dropout rates of students at the primary level are increasing, the teachers' union told NewsClick.
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