Minister Sivankutty visits Sainik school to discuss financial crisis

Vipinachandran K S/

Vice Principal Wing Commander Alka Chaudhary greets the General Education Minister V Sivankutty | Photo: by arrangement

Kazhakooottam: The General Education Minister V Sivankutty said that the state government would soon sign a memorandum of understanding with the Centre to resolve the Sainik School financial crisis. Briefing the media after visiting the premises and holding discussion with school authorities, he also said the state would do its utmost to improve the facilities and explore the possibility of setting up a second Sainik School.

An amount of rupee six crores is required annually to meet the financial commitments of the school, including student scholarships and pension pay-outs. Efforts were made to hammer out a solution during the earlier Pinarayi dispensation. When thirty-five years back, the annual fees were re.7,000 an equivalent sum was available as scholarship. Now, there is a mismatch between the fee amount of re.80,000 and scholarship amount of re.21,000.

Moreover, only students from households with less than re.180,000 are eligible for the scholarship. In the proposed MoU, this amount is capped at re.300,000. But if children from commoners’ homes are to benefit, the ceiling should be raised to re.600,000.

The school authorities pointed out that the academic building is in a state of dangerous disrepair. The minister said that a masterplan to improve infrastructure would be implemented. Though Sainik School does not fall within the ambit of the state education department, efforts will be made to see how best to assist them.

To ensure wider social participation in ameliorating the conditions in the school, the minister suggested convening a meeting of alumni. Another point he made was that apart from the local MP, who is part of the school advisory committee, it would help better in conveying the requirements of the school to the state government, if the MLA concerned too were included. This would be brought to the attention of the Centre.

As the minister addresses the media, MLA Kadakampally Surendran looks on |  Photo: by arrangement
As the minister addresses the media, MLA Kadakampally Surendran looks on | Photo: by arrangement

MLA Kadakampally Surendran, and corporator M Binu accompanied the minister. School Principal Col Dhirendra Kumar, Vice Principal Wg Cdr Alka Chaudhary, Administrative Officer Lt Col Shelley K Das, and PTA President Sonia Ratheesh participated in the discussions.

A day after the minister’s visit the Old Boys Association expressed their sincere appreciation to him and local MLA Kadakampally Surendran for visiting their alma mater to discuss finding a permanent solution to the crisis crippling the school. The statement further reads, in part: “Old Boys world over were shattered to hear about the state of non-payment of salary and pension to its staff. It was saddening to know that procedural delays had lingered for a full year leading to this situation. The school had been in deficit since 2012 and was running using its reserve fund. Earlier instances of financial criticality were temporarily diffused by temporary grant-in-aids. However, the permanent resolution of signing the memorandum of agreement remained elusive. The old boys eagerly look forward to the signing of MoA by the state government which will put the matter to rest and the school can function in a healthy manner”.

The MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Dr. Sashi Tharoor, said that despite trying all week to raise the issue of the lack of funding to the school, he could only succeed in raising the subject under Rule 377. He tweeted the text of the matter drawing the attention of the Defence Minister to “expedite the payment of salaries and pension to the staff, and finalise the MoU with the State Government at the earliest to facilitate the smooth functioning of the school and to ensure that access to education is not restricted in these difficult times is not restricted”.

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