New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is planning a number of educational schemes as part of its Dalit outreach initiatives. Among the proposals it is considering are 150 Ambedkar Navodaya Vidyalayas, on the lines of the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, for students belonging to the Scheduled Caste (SC) community, ThePrint has learnt.
It is also learnt to be looking at a national scholarship scheme for meritorious students belonging to the SC, OBC and economically backward castes. The scholarship will be offered from Class 9 and will continue up to the post-graduation level.
The proposals were discussed during a recent meeting of the sectoral group of secretaries chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sources told ThePrint, adding they are yet to get an in-principle nod.
According to initial estimates, the scholarship scheme will cover tuition and maintenance fees of the beneficiaries, costing the government over Rs 7,000 crore per annum. To ensure there is greater transparency, the amount will be credited directly to the bank accounts of the students.
Navodayas for SC students
The Ambedkar Navodaya Vidyalayas, if approved, will come up in areas with high density of SC population to ensure more students are able to get quality education, according to the sources.
They are to be modelled on the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas run by the Navodaya Samiti, which functions under the human resource development (HRD) ministry. Their performance in board exams has been quite good in the past few years.
“These 150 schools will be chiefly meant for students from the SC community and will be residential. A small section, however, will be open for other category students too,” said a senior government official, who did not wish to be named. “Many schools have a large number of first-generation learners and they are not able to get the kind of help at home. Hence they are completely dependent on the schools for learning to read and write and require more attention from school teachers.”
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is currently engaged in preparing the proposal, which if approved can lead to schools being set up from the next financial year itself. “We will not be able to have so many buildings in place at a given point of time. So we can probably start these schools from temporary buildings,” the official added.
Schools to help with access to quality education
Officials said the proposal is an effort to help Dalit students access quality education. “Though enrolment over a period of time has increased, accessing high-quality residential education for the SC students is still an issue,” said another official. “Many even drop out as they are unable to travel a long distance. The Ambedkar schools will help bridge that gap.”
Even at the higher education level, the Gross Enrollment Ratio or GER of SC students, though has shown an increase, is still quite less compared to those from the general category.
The GER refers to the percentage of students in higher education of the total eligible population in the 18-23 age group.
According to the HRD ministry, the overall GER increased from 25.8 in 2017-18 to 26.3 in 2018-19. The GER for Scheduled Caste students showed a growth from 21.8 to 23 and that for ST students went up from 15.9 to 17.2.
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