Govt. may drop move to close SC/ST special schools
By Radha Venkatesan

Taken from THE HINDU

CHENNAI, FEB. 10. Faced with protests from Dalit outfits, the State Adi-Dravidar Welfare department has asked the Government to drop the controversial proposal to do away with special schools for SC and ST students.

In a sudden volte-face, the department, which till recently pushed the proposal for merging the SC\ST schools with general schools, has now recommended that they remain ``special'' at least for sometime now.

The Chief Secretary, P. Shankar, has convened a meeting of officials of the Education and Adi-Dravidar Welfare department's to decide on the fate of the special schools.

Called the Adi-Dravidar Welfare Schools and the Government Tribal Residential schools, these 1260 ``special'' institutions, started a few decades ago to improve the woefully low literacy rate among SC\STs and only SC\ST teachers were recruited.

However, the State Planning Commission, which reviewed functioning of the schools recently, felt that the resources spent on SC\ST education uplift had not brought significant gains to the community. While the literacy rate in the State is about 63 per cent, only about 46 per cent of SC\STs are literate. But the Government has been spending as much as Rs. 50 crores on running the 1017 ADWS and 243 GTRS.

Hence, the Adi-Dravidar Welfare department drew up a proposal to shift these schools under its control to the Education department and admit students from all communities in the schools. But, instantly the move came under fire with the 8,890 teachers of the special schools and Dalit outfits threatening to take to streets.

Consequently, the Government directed the Department of Evaluation and Applied Research to conduct a quick appraisal of the schools. According to the assessment report, the students of the schools performed ``relatively higher'' than the SC\ST students in general schools under the Education department.

For instance, in the Plus-Two public examination, the special school students scored 17 per cent more than their counterparts in general schools. But the report exposes the ``poor condition'' of the hostels and the increasing drop-out rate caused by the falling quality of education in the special schools.

So, the Adi Dravidar Welfare department has suggested that ``time is not ripe'' for abandoning the special schools as the SC\ST literacy rate is still low. Also, there is the threat of the Government losing the special funding package from the Centre.

And, if the department has its way, the schools will remain ``special and untouchable'', at least for few years.