The court of Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice Ashutosh Shastri observed based on a government affidavit providing details of school buildings and infrastructure facilities such as playgrounds and washrooms in a suo motu PIL.
The court had taken suo moto cognisance of a news article about the collapse of a school building at Vagalvada village in Chhota Udepur district, and some parts of a school building collapsing at Pratappura in Mahisagar district and some students getting injured in the incident.
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The bench noted that the annexure made in the affidavit revealed that infrastructure facilities such as drinking water, toilets, and playgrounds have been provided at district/taluka levels, including buildings for conducting classes.
The court further said that the advocate general has assured that any shortfall in the infrastructure would be addressed if brought to the notice of Vidya Sameeksha Kendra, Samagra Siksha Kendra or Gujarat Council of School Education.
“We do not see any good ground as to why the said statement made should not be accepted, particularly in the background of the statistics placed before this court (regarding infrastructure facilities) disclosing the steps taken by the state authorities, which are not only satisfactory but also almost on par with any other private schools,” the bench said.
The government informed the court that a pucca RCC building has been constructed at Vagalvada, and necessary instructions have been issued regarding the school at Pratappura.
The court observed that it is “not only satisfied with the steps taken by the state but also places on record its appreciation for immediate steps taken on such deficiencies being pointed out”.
As per the affidavit filed by the additional secretary, there are 32,319 government schools in all, with 47,07,846 students.
While almost all schools have toilets and drinking water supply, at least 6,443 do not have playgrounds, it said.
The court noted in its order that the state has put up “strenuous efforts” by which the net enrolment rate in schools (NER), which was 75.05 per cent in 2002-03, has risen to 99.25 per cent in 2012-13, and is now close to achieving 100 per cent.
The school dropout ratio from Classes 1 to 8, which was around 18.79 per cent in 2004-05, has come down to 3.07 per cent in 2021, as per the government affidavit.
The dropout ratio of girls has come down to 1.29 per cent for Classes 1 to 5, and 3.46 per cent for Classes 6 to 8 by 2021, and the student-to-classroom ratio (SCR) stands at 26:1 in 2021, from 38:1 in 2001-02, with 1.37 lakh classrooms built during this period, the affidavit stated.
As per the government data, about 1.96 lakh teachers and head teachers have been recruited in the last 20 years, improving the pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) to 28:1 in 2021, from 40:1 in 2001-02.