Statistics from the West Bengal education department have revealed the poor state of affairs in the primary education sector with as many as 7,018 state-run primary schools shutting shop in the last ten years.
As per the statistics, as of March 31, 2012, there were 74,717 state-run primary schools in West Bengal. The figure has come down to 67,699 as of March 31, 2022.
The maximum decline has been recorded in the South 24 Parganas district where the number of such schools during this ten-year period declined by 1,192.
An interesting statistic is from the earlier undivided West Midnapore, which is now divided into the districts of West Midnapore and Jhargram. As of March 31, 2012, the total number of state-run primary schools in the then undivided West Midnapore district was 8,404. However, as of March 31, 2022 2022, the number has declined by 1,047 to 7,357, out of which 5,411 are in West Midnapore and 1,946 are in Jhargram.
Educationists feel that this is a peculiar trend since normally the number of schools increases once a district is bifurcated into two districts.
Equally worrying is the situation in East Midnapore district, where the number has declined by 867 from 5,619 as on March 31, 2012 to 5,762 as on March 31, 2022.
There has also been a parallel decline in the number of students enrolled in the state-run primary schools in West Bengal. The number declined by 6,08,956 from 78,04,684 as on March 31, 2012 to 71,95,728 as on March 31, 2022.
Repeated attempts to contact education minister, Bratya Basu for his comments on this issue failed as his mobile phone kept on ringing unanswered.
Describing the figures as a dangerous trend, All Bengal Teachers Association president Debasish Dutta said that the effect of this decline in the number of state-run primary schools and the students enrolled there is because the state government is gradually withdrawing the funds required for running these primary schools. "Many primary schools in the district have a single teacher. Once that teacher retires, the state government does not make any fresh recruitment and hence that primary school shuts shop," he pointed out.
Educationist PK Mukhopadhyay said that the effect of this decline will be felt after some years when there will be a proportionate decline in the number of students in the upper primary, secondary and higher secondary levels.
"As it is, the school rates in West Bengal after upper-primary level are high. So now the situation can well be imaginable considering that there has been such a decline in the number of students at the primary level during the last ten years," he added.
( 460 Words)