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MP: Ahead of Polls, Congress Promises Monthly Stipend for 92 Lakh Govt School Students to Curb Dropouts

At a Congress rally in tribal-dominated Mandla, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra promised to implement the scheme if voted to power.
At a Congress rally in tribal-dominated Mandla, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra promised to implement the scheme if voted to power.

Bhopal: The Congress has promised to implement the 'Padho-Padhao Yojana' [Learn and Teach Scheme], offering school children a stipend between Rs 500 to Rs 1,500 to curb the school dropout rates in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh.

At a Congress rally in tribal-dominated Mandla, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra promised to implement the scheme if voted to power. "Under the scheme [for government schools], the education of children from classes I to XII will be free of cost, and children from classes I to VIII will receive Rs 500 every month, those in classes IX and X will receive Rs 1,000 per month, and students in classes XI and XII will receive Rs 1,500 per month," she said, reaching out to parents, women voters, as well as 22 lakh first-time voters in the state.

Madhya Pradesh, which has 92.45 lakh government school students up to class 12, according to the department's 2022-23 yearly report, has recorded a dropout rate of 9%-10% in 2021-22 at the middle and senior secondary levels, according to the Union Ministry of Education report.

According to the school education department, there are a total of 90,180 government schools in Madhya Pradesh, including 59,048 primary and 3,690 higher secondary schools.

Estimate of expenses on the scheme proposed by Congress


If implemented, the scheme will increase the burden on the government's coffers by Rs 7,776 crore per annum.

"This is the first time any political party has made announcements keeping school students in mind even though they are not direct voters," said a Congress Manifesto committee member, BK Botham. "Our aim is to educate the marginalised, not just minting votes," he said.

According to the 2011 census, scheduled tribes, scheduled castes, and minorities account for 48% of the state's population. The majority of drop-out students belong to these three categories, according to the reports. Students drop out for three reasons: to earn a livelihood, can't afford a costly education, and girl students being forced to marry after they are 17 years of age.

The Ministry of Education department's reply in Parliament over the number of 'out-of-school children' in February 2023 further sheds light on the abysmal condition of school education in the state. In response to Rajya Sabha MP Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya's question, the Ministry of Education replied that 18,667 students were out of school at the elementary level in Madhya Pradesh, while 84,788 are out of school at the secondary level — the highest in the country.

"The 18-year regime of the BJP government did little for government school education. The infrastructure is in a dilapidated state, the teachers are on the streets protesting for their rightful demands rather than in classrooms. Corruption in mid-day meals, school dress, and books led to dropouts and forced the government to close over 15,000 schools in the state in the last two decades. On the other hand, private schools are booming," said Botham.

"For a better future for the state, we need to spend more on government schools where children of the marginalised class get an education," he added.

When asked about the BJP government's ambitious plan of opening 9,000 schools, announced in 2021-22, with facilities on par with private schools, Botham said, "The government closed over 15,000 schools in the last two decades, but just before the election, the announcement to open 9,000 schools isn't going to help. They have done nothing but rename the model school to CM Rise School."

According to Madhya Pradesh School Education Department's yearly report, when the budget of the school education department was Rs 2,119 crore in 2008-09, there were 1.35 crore students up to standard XII in government schools. While in private schools, the number of students was 58.34 lakhs.

But after 14 years, in 2021-22, when the state education department budget saw a 10-fold jump to 24,960.49 crores, the number of students dropped to 92 lakhs from 1.35 crores.

Between 2008 and 2021, when the Madhya Pradesh government schools saw a drop of 43 lakh students in the school, the private schools saw a jump of 3.48 lakh students.

"This scheme will prevent students from becoming child labourers, and the monthly stipend will motivate marginalised parents to send their children to the schools," said Congress spokesperson Anand Jaat.

Commenting on the proposed scheme, Ajay Gangwar, a retired IAS officer who has served at the School Education Department for a long time, pointed out that just offering a monthly stipend will not improve the dropout figures in government schools or the quality of education. "We need to understand why parents fight for the admission of their children in private schools. The obvious reply is: the quality of education. Similarly, the government needs to improve the quality of education in the schools."


He said that the quality of education improves with functional infrastructure, qualified teachers, distance from political activities, and extracurricular activities that enhance students' personality and knowledge – the way Kendriya Vidyalaya and Navodaya Schools have been working. "Without improving the quality of education in government schools, offering stipends will not help,” he added.

"When a 15-year-old boy can earn Rs 250 a day as a labourer, why would he come to government school for Rs 500 a month if he did not get a quality education?" asked Gangwar.

Assembly Data

According to Assembly data tabled in March this year, out of 90,180 schools, at least 6,610 government schools were without toilets, and 2,700 didn’t have washrooms for girls. A whopping 50,417 primary and middle schools in MP didn’t have boundary walls.

On a query from Congress MLA Kunal Choudhary over the basic facilities at government schools, the school education minister, Indar Singh Parmar, said, "Of the 58,506 primary schools, 2,025 don’t have girls' toilets. It’s the same for 679 of the 24,733 middle schools. Over 3,900 schools don’t have toilets for boys either. As many as 65% of primary schools and 49% of middle schools are without a boundary wall."

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