IMPROVEMENT OF SCHOOL FACILITIES AND OTHER CIVIL WORKS
Community participation should be the only means of undertaking any civil works in improvement of school facilities. Experiments in community participation under Lok Jumbish and under DPEP in many States have been very encouraging and such experiments will be further carried out. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan would first of all try to mobilise resources under Rural Employment Programme and other developmental schemes for constructing school buildings. The community would have to come forward to maintain school facilities if any investment is proposed in a village. An annual support to the community for repair and maintenance is envisaged under the SSA. The upper ceiling is Rs. 5000 per year, based on the actual need and the willingness of the community to contribute. The Lok Jumbish Project has had significant success by adopting this procedure.
The allocation for civil works will not exceed 33% of the perspective and the Annual Plan. The elementary education becoming an obligation of the state (including the local government), the Panchayats could even be directed to prioritise construction of school facilities where it does not exist.
The participation of the community in all civil work activities will be mandatory in order to ensure a sense of ownership and a departure from contractor driven approaches. Engagement of contractors will not be allowed under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. School Management Committees/ Village Education Committees/ Gram Panchayat Committee on Education will have to carry out the civil works activities through a transparent system of account keeping. The DPEP and Lok Jumbish Project have developed effective community based approaches for civil works. These will be mandatory in all Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan districts.
The principle of social audit could be accepted for minor repairs. The School Management Committee/ Village Education Committee could certify the maintenance and repair work under taken in a school. For larger repair and maintenance as well as new construction, technical provisions will be followed. The technical provisions however, have to be totally demystified (as has been done under the Lok Jumbish Project) and the communities' right to know the cost parameters has to be fully respected.
Efforts to improve the school environment by addition of a few inexpensive internal and external elements will be made. New building designs developed in Lok Jumbish and DPEP would be adapted to promote child centred learning. Use of local materials and cost effective technologies will be encouraged. A civil works innovation fund will be set up in each state/UT to encourage experimentation with design. Repair and maintenance of buildings will be given the top most priority.
A large number of (more than 100) building designs for schools have been developed in DPEP districts. These designs, apart from being attractive, are child centred, functional and in tune with the new pedagogical concepts. The publication called 'Building rural Primary schools' published by the Ed Cil and the building construction manuals developed by the Lok Jumbish Project may be utilised by all the States/ districts to develop their civil works plan. The States may make use of designs already developed under DPEP/ Lok Jumbish Project in their specific local contexts. Incorporation of child-friendly internal and external elements will be mandatory in all the new construction and repair works.
SSA will encourage use of local construction of materials and low cost technologies. This would require a large amount of capacity building, including training of engineers and masons in these technologies. Apart from the Technical Resource Group of DPEP, assistance of Resource institutions like HUDCO may also be sought for this purpose.
There will be a Civil Work innovation fund of Rupees fifty lakhs in each State. This will be used for civil works innovations, demonstration buildings, and capacity building.
Civil works under SSA should start with a proper assessment of the infrastructure requirement for each district. There need to be a school-wise compilation of physical and monetary requirements. The attempt should be to find out the minimum money required to provide adequate infrastructure to each school including repairs, toilets, drinking water, boundary wall, etc. Provision of additional classrooms is to be considered only after exploring possibility of repairs and double shifts. Once the total requirement for the district is obtained, one needs to find out how much of this requirement can be funded through the on going schemes and therefore what is the gap that is required to be funded through SSA.
There should be a single agency in each district to manage all funds related to school construction. Ideally, it should be an engineering cell in the district team. All school infrastructure works should be executed by the single agency.
Each State must formulate a strategy for repair. The Rupees five thousand per year available to a school for regular maintenance and repair could be used to create a maintenance corpus in a school. The money will be credited to the VEC and the VEC could decide to use only part of the funds and use the rest to create a corpus. Community involvement is a must if the school infrastructure has to be well maintained