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Gujarat Govt Shuts Down Rann Shalas in Kutch

Shilpa Shaji |
Every child has a Right to education. Why then is the govt. refusing to acknowledge the plight of the salt labourers' children, struggling to get a primary education in the desert?

Image Courtesy: Counterview

Amidst the Gujarat government plans to celebrate Gunotsav across the state to strengthen quality outcomes in primary education, the government-sponsored Rann Shala schools at Santalpur area in the Little Rann of Kutch area were shut down. Nine out of the total 25 Rann Shalas in the Patan district was closed saying that they don’t have any sanction for running the schools.

The Rann Shalas, the temporary schools in the desert of Kutch, was started under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and aimed at educating the children of the traditional salt farmer. The farmers spend nearly eight months, post-September, in the Rann working in the salt pans of the area. By the mid of May, they return to their villages. During September-April period, the children of these farmers rely on Rann Shalas for their primary education.

“In September every year, hundreds of children from villages in Santalpur area in Patan district and Adesar area of Kutch district, arrive with their parents in the Little Rann to start producing salt, their only means of livelihood. These children will remain with their parents in the Little Rann till April, till salt is produced.”

The state programme director of SSA ordered for the closure of Rann Shalas from March 31 and declared that the students should go to their native place to give exams.

Though the state programme director of SSA issued that the sanction for Rann Shalas was for three months until February 28, the District Primary Education Officer extended it for another one month, till March 31, said Pankti of Agariya Heet Rakshak Manch (AHRM), an NGO which works among salt pan workers.  

“This is not acceptable and it will result in an uncertainty in the future of 250 students who are relying on these nine Rann Shalas. Since the native places are far away from the desert, exams need to be taken in the desert itself,” said Pankti.

The original sanction of the Rann Shalas had been done based on Support Streaming programme which is an alternative learning centre for the child labourers or dropouts. But the government forgets the fact that these are not dropouts or child labourers, they are regular students who go to their village schools in June and get their education till September in the village schools. Then they migrate to the desert along with their parents. So their education needs to be continued even when they are in the desert. For that, the students need regular schools to continue their studies, added Pankti.

But still, the Rann Shalas were run without mid-day meal, no full-time teacher or other equipment and facilities. These are most of the issues thousands of students deal with in the desert. More than 8,000 families migrate every year to the desert and stay over there for eight months.

On the other hand, the BJP-government is all set to celebrate Gunotsav saying that “Primary education is the foundation on which the development of every citizen and the nation as a whole built on.” So then why doesn’t the government hear the voices of the children who are struggling in the desert to gain the primary education, which is assured to them as per the Right to Education Act?

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