GUWAHATI: A total of 11,272 schools in the state, from lower primary (LP) to higher secondary (HS) levels, are now headed towards amalgamation or merger as these have failed to meet the criteria of sustainable enrolment necessary to exist on their own.
This was also evident from a post on X, formerly Twitter, by Education Minister Ranoj Pegu on Thursday, which said in Assamese, "No school will be shut down, nor will any student be deprived of education. Schools with less than sustainable enrollment located nearby will be amalgamated or merged."
The Assam government's School Education Department issued an office memorandum on September 22, 2016, where it was informed that in order to ascertain a standard teacher-pupil ratio, optimum services of the employees, saving administrative costs, and other logistic support of the schools, it was decided that the schools situated on the same campus or in any nearby area shall be amalgamated or merged, and all the schools will be brought into one single administrative and academic unit under the Siksha Khetra Scheme.
The decision for amalgamation or merger of schools came into effect in 2017, and till now, 9000 schools from LP to higher secondary level have either amalgamated or merged under the Siksha Khetra Scheme.
Moreover, following the introduction of the Siksha Setu portal for uploading the school details and students' attendance, the School Education Department was able to access all information regarding the schools from LP to higher secondary level. It has now come to light that a large number of government and provincialised primary, upper primary, secondary, and higher secondary schools across 35 districts in the state have less than the prescribed enrolment.
In fact, it has emerged that while 3,536 schools have an enrollment of up to only 15 students, 7,736 such schools have an enrollment of 16-30 students, as apparent from the Siksha Setu portal.
From a list of schools having students of up to 15 and from 16 to 30 in 35 districts of the state, it appears that Kamrup (M) has 28 schools with enrolment up to 15, and 69 schools with enrolment from 16 to 30. District-wise, in the category of schools with enrolments up to 15 students, Dima Hasao has the most schools-a total of 506.
To mention a few districts with schools having enrolments of 16-30 students, the district with the highest number of 449 such schools is in the Lakhimpur district, with 437 in the Kamrup district and 410 in the Kokrajhar district.
It is interesting to note that a total of 25 schools across the districts in the state have an enrolment of 0 students, with the maximum of 17 such schools in the Dima Hasao district and 7 in the Karbi Anglong district.
Schools with enrolment of just 1 student number 31 in the state, with the highest number in Dima Hasao with 17 such schools.
Schools with enrolment of only 2 students number 65 in the state, with the highest again in Dima Hasao with 34.
Those with an enrollment of 3 students number 65 in the state, with the highest in Dima Hasao with 26 schools.
Also, there are 101 schools in the state with an enrollment of 4 students, the highest being in Dima Hasao with 33.
Schools having an enrollment of 5 students number 132 in the state, with the highest again in Dima Hasao with 33 such schools.
The criteria laid out for amalgamation or merger of schools is that (a) If two or more high schools are located within the radius or 2 km, then these high schools may be merged provided that the number of student does not exceed 40 in each class; (b) If an ME School has poor enrolment i.e. less than 15 students in each class then the ME school may be merged with the nearby High School; (c) If two or more UP (ME) Schools are located within the radius of I kilometre then these ME schools may be merged provided that number of students do not exceed 40 in each class; (d) If two or more LP Schools are located within the radius of 1/2 kilometre then these LP schools may be merged provided that number of students do not exceed 100 in each school; and (e) similar criteria shall be considered in case of ME Madrassa, High Madrassa and Higher Secondary Madrassa.
From the numbers mentioned earlier, it is easy to discern why the government is proceeding with the amalgamation or merger of schools.