Even after five years, why is Odisha govt struggling to execute its higher secondary school separation plan?

Higher secondary schools (HSSs), erstwhile Plus II (junior) colleges, were to be separated from degree colleges and brought under the School and Mass Education department in Odisha 
Picture for representational purposes only | (Pic: Express)
Picture for representational purposes only | (Pic: Express)

Even as five years have passed since the announcement of the separation of higher secondary schools (HSSs), erstwhile Plus II (junior) colleges, from degree colleges, the Government of Odisha is struggling to bring a number of these schools from the administrative control of Higher Education department and provide them separate infrastructure and teaching/non-teaching staff to function independently under the School and Mass Education (SME) department. 

Over 90 per cent of schools are also dependent on degree colleges due to lack of infrastructure and adequate faculty and staff strength. The Higher Education department, through its notification in May 2016, had announced the separation of HSSs from degree colleges across the state from the 2016-17 academic session. Accordingly, it was decided that after separation the HSSs will be brought under the administrative control of the SME department and separate infrastructure will be created for its independent function. 

Sources, however, said that out of 2,048 higher secondary schools, over 90 per cent are still struggling to function independently, owing to various reasons including delay in their separation, lack of adequate infrastructure and poor faculty strength. Sources in the SME department said over 66 per cent of government HSSs and more than half of the 488 category fully-aided HSSs have not even been brought under the administrative control of the department yet. 

"Out of 51 government HSSs, only 17 have been brought under the administrative control of our department, while 34 are continuing to function under the Higher Education department," said an official from the department. He also informed that out of 517 schools in the 488 category, 240 are under the administrative control of the SME department, while the remaining 277 are functioning under the Higher Education department. The senior officer said that barring a few HSSs such as BJB, Ravenshaw and so on, most of the prominent HSSs in the state, including, Rama Devi, Khalikote, GM Sambalpur as well as MPC HSS are struggling to function independently. 

The HSS at Rama Devi University was supposed to be shifted to Unit-9 Girl's High School in the capital with separate infrastructure and staff. Though the SME department had initiated the process for this in 2019, it is yet to be completed. 

Officials admitted that inadequate staff strength is another reason why schools are dependent on degree colleges. The process of requiring over 1,000 teaching staff for these HSSs has not been completed yet. Besides, around 516 HSSs face problems of demarcation of infrastructure and alienation of land from degree college as well as getting records or rights for the land in their possession. 

An official said though the SME department had set a target of wrapping up the separation and infrastructure creation process for all HSSs by 2024, it is lagging behind by two years due to COVID-19. He, however, said that committees have been formed at the district level, with collectors as its head, in December 2021 to expedite the separation process, while DEOs and principals of HSSs have been asked to pursue the matter with officials concerned at the earliest to complete the exit process and initiate measures for creation of their own infrastructure, wherever needed.

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