Thursday, 30 January 2014

Money, money everywhere, Chennai corporation not ready to spend

Chennai, January 28: An RTI petition filed by DC with Chennai corporation reveals that Rs174 crore, collected as education cess, is in the corporation's kitty that has remained unspent for the last eight years. The cess money, which should be utilised for the improvement of infrastructure of schools and to upgrade the quality of education in the corporation schools, has not been spent. 

Educationists say that there are schools in Chennai where 100 children are squeezed into one classroom and quality of education has not been improved with library and lab facilities using the cess funds.
According to the RTI reply, elementary education tax is collected along with property tax at the rate of 2.50 per cent of annual value of the building. The expenditure from this tax is spent especially to improve corporation school infrastructure and special works in and around the school area.
Social activist A. Devaneyan points out that schools in Kannagi Nagar and Chemmenchery do not have adequate classrooms and the children in these neighbourhoods are forced to travel to the city for better quality education.

"There are just three middle schools and one each higher secondary and high school in Kannagi Nagar. Whereas, the student population crosses more than 15,000. In case of Chemmenchery there are more than 6,000 children in the neigbourhood. There is just one middle and a high school for children. These two schools are not adequate to cater to all the 6,000 students here," said Devaneyan. He added that due to lack of additional classrooms, more than 100 students are pushed into one classroom in Chemmenchery.

Schools in Korukupet, Nehru Nagar and other north Chennai neighbourhoods are worse still. For instance, students of the middle school in Coronation Nagar attend school on shift basis because the construction of school building, started almost two years back, is yet to be completed. "Since the construction of new classrooms has been going for several months, students were asked to attend school on different shifts. Students from class one to five attend school in the mornings and students from class six to eight occupy the same classrooms in the afternoon," a parent, who sends her two daughters to the school, said, requesting anonymity.

Locals suggest that the corporation could spend the education cess to rent a spacious area to provide regular classes to the children. SFI state president Uchi Mahali complains that in some instances, education cess is diverted for works like road laying and providing drinking water facility to neighbourhoods close to the schools. "Education cess should not be used for any other purpose other than upgrading the school premises and the quality of education provided there. We strongly condemn the under utilisation and mishandling of education cess," says Uchi Mahali.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Disabled students charged fee despite fee waiver 
Chennai, January 8: The University of Madras is in the soup. Disabled rights organisations have complained that the university charges disabled Ph.D. students while the government ordered fee waiver way back in October 2008. After their meeting with the vice-chancellor on Tuesday night failed to bear fruit, the disabled students have now approached Governor K. Rosaiah, who is also the chancellor of the university, for help.

Two weeks ago, T.M.N. Deepak was recommended by the selection committee of the University of Madras for admission to do Ph.D. programme in the department of politics and public administration. He was asked to pay Rs8,080 for his programme. “A  government order issued in 2008 clearly states that disabled persons are exempted from paying the fee for the Ph.D. programme, I told the university management that I am qualified for fee waiver. But they insisted that I should pay the fee,” said Deepak.

When Deepak explained about the fee waiver, the university staff strictly told him that he must pay the fee. Along with other disabled rights activists, Deepak met vice-chancellor R. Thandavan to redress the grievance. “We told the vice-chancellor about the existing G.O. and the fee waiver. But even he did not respond properly. I am raising this issue because despite this G.O., several disabled persons would have been asked to pay the fee for the last five years. And so all the students who qualified for waiver would receive reimbursement,” he said. Efforts to contact vice chancellor Thandavan went in vain.