Education in doldrums! 7000 teachers’ posts vacant in Odisha

Though Odisha has spent 71% of core RMSA funds on Teachers & Learning Resources, as many as 7,324 teacher vacancies continue to haunt the State, which is 9% of total vacancies nationally. Still, 3,167 habitations have no access to secondary schools

Bhubaneswar:  Despite spending a lion’s share of core Rashtriya Madhyamik Shikshya Abhiyan (RMSA) budget on Teachers and Learning Resources,  Odisha is still saddling with nearly 9 per cent of the teacher vacancies in the country.

As per the data available with the School & Mass Education (S&ME) department, Odisha has 7,324 teacher vacancies in its over 4,620 high schools. The total vacancies touch around 10,000, if the vacancies in fully aided and block-grant schools are considered. The country (Centre + states) has a  total of 98,000 teacher vacancies.

The vacancies in the State have been lingering since the last decade. And the big disconcerting fact is half of the total teacher vacancies are in vital subjects like science and math.

The woes look overflowing, when over 2,340 schools in the State don’t have headmasters, though the S&ME department has claimed of having initiated steps to fill the headmaster vacancies via promotions.

An analysis of the minutes of the Project Approval Board (PAB) meetings of the RMSA for Odisha reveals that the State had spent nearly 71 per cent of core RMSA funds on ‘Teachers & Learning resources’ (T&LE) that constitute sub-components like recruiting staff for new and existing schools among other essentials like training, Project IT/e-governance, library etc. But not only the teacher vacancies have mounted up over the years but students are also deprived of library facilities.

A look at the expenditure pattern of RMSA (Integrated) budget, however, reveals Odisha spending more on ICT (Information &Technology).  Data shows when the RMSA core accounts for 33 per cent of total funds, ICT scheme corners a share of 45 per cent.

What is core RMSA and RMSA (Integrated)? RMSA scheme was launched in March 2009 with the objective to enhance access to secondary education and to improve its quality. But in 2013-14, the Union HRD ministry integrated five centrally sponsored schemes like ICT programme in schools, hostels for girls, inclusive education scheme for disabled and vocational education programme for class 9 & 10.

It needs mentioning that the components under core RMSA  are: Teachers & Learning Resources, strengthening of school infra, improving quality and equitable access to secondary education etc.

However, a comparative analysis shows that many developed states like Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat allocate around 80-85 per cent of core RMSA fund for T & LE.

As per CAG report tabled in State Assembly last year , a total of 3,167 eligible human habitations still don’t have secondary schools in Odisha. Further looking at the expenditure of  RMSA  reveals that Odisha had on average spent 16 per cent of the core RMSA funds on school infrastructure since 2016-17 and spent around 6 per cent of core RMSA funds for upgrading quality of schools.

The telling fact of such slip-ups in State, especially shortfall in construction of new schools and strengthening of infrastructure in existing schools, is the classroom-student ratio has breached the norm of 1:4.