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'Roof replacement beyond the means of schools'

By Our Special Correspondent

CUDDALORE, SEPT. 21. Over 100 aided schools in Tamil Nadu cannot mobilise funds to put up fire-proof roofs as directed by the Government in the aftermath of the July 16 Kumbakonam blaze. The managements have sounded the Government on takeover of these schools.

The Tamilaga Aarambapalli Aasiriyar Koottani general secretary, S. Abdul Majid, told The Hindu here that the managements could not meet the expenditure on replacement the roofs which might cost between Rs. 30,000 and 50,000 a classroom.

Earlier, the managements used to get up to 15 per cent (of teachers' salary) as maintenance allowance from the Government, but it was gradually reduced to 1.5 per cent and totally withdrawn in 2001. Now each school was sanctioned only Rs. 5,000 under the Sarva Sikhsha Abhiyan (Education for All) scheme, he said.

There were legal complications in the government takeover of schools. The foremost condition was that the schools must have pucca buildings and there should not be any encumbrance attached to the property. If it was a public property or owned by a panchayat union, the entire legal process would have to be gone through, said Mr. Majid.

There were two kinds of takeover: one, acquiring physical assets such as buildings, and the other involving absorption of manpower (teachers). Even if the Government was convinced of the need for taking over a school, it might not show the same interest in absorbing the staff, said Mr. Majid.

Therefore, the staff opposed the takeover bids.

`Administration suffers'

On the Kumbakonam fire tragedy, Mr. Majid said though the cause was yet to established, certain Education department officials were still placed under suspension. They were at their wit's end, he said.

In the absence of replacements, almost the entire school administration suffered a setback, Mr. Majid said and called for remedial measures to put school education back on the rails.

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