Set up in 2009 under a central government scheme, a school in Arunachal Pradesh's East Kameng district has only one class - Class X - the students of which will appear for their board examination this year.
Ekalavya Model Residential School started its journey with 54 students admitted to Class VI, but four years down the line those students, barring one who has left, are the only students on the school's roll now as there was no fresh admission.
The sorry state of affairs is attributed to lack of adequate teaching and non-teaching staff to allow admission of a fresh batch. After 2009, there was no recruitment in either of the categories.
The Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs, under Article 275 (1) had decided to sanction 100 Ekalavya Model Residential School (EMRS) in the country during the 9th Five Year Plan. Two were sanctioned for Arunachal Pradesh, one at Bana in East Kameng district and the other at Lumla in Tawang district.
The two schools were registered under a registered society called Arunachal Pradesh Residential and Education Educational Institution Welfare Society. A state-level committee was formed to oversee its management which decided to handover the schools to committed NGOs working in the state.
On May 29, 2009, the state government signed an MoU with Vivekananda Kendra Vidyalayas (VKV) trust to run the EMRS in East Kameng district. Within two months the VKV, known for imparting quality education, took over the school and started the academic session with the infrastructure established by the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
"Because of the love of the children and their extreme zest to pursue education, we are still around. We just cannot leave them half way," says Omanakuttan, the principal, who joined EMRS in 2011.
His predecessor had moved to the Andamans to oversee a similar project of the VKV.
According to the guidelines of the Union Ministry of According to the guidelines of the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs, all expenses incurred on setting up infrastructure, administration, stipends, etc. will be provided by the ministry but the salary of the teaching and non-teaching staff will be borne by the state government, local MLA Tani Loffa said.
Accordingly, the Department of Social Welfare, Women & Child Development, releases a grant-in-aid through Director of School Education for recurring expenditure. Interestingly, there is no mention of provision of salary. "The VKV Trust is somehow managing from its infrastructural development fund to keep the teaching and non-teaching staff going on," says informs Omanakuttan.
According to him, the amount on account of salary has crossed one crore mark due from the government. Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, who visited the school on January 11, was surprised that the issues have not been resolved for so many years. Tuki promised that he would find a way-out in the form of a corpus fund or a grant from where the salary expenditure can be made.
He also advised the school management to take new admissions from the next academic session. The 53 students, 30 boys and 23 girls have, meanwhile, excelled in academic as well as co-curricular activities. The students have been taking part in national level science congresses and exhibitions every year since 2010. Eight students of the school are recipients of the State Level Scholarship, which is a remarkable feat when considered that only 36 from all over the state have received it.
"Unless the Chief Minister takes some immediate concrete steps, the future of the 53 students is at stake," Omanakuttan said, adding that the school will become non-functional, "if we are able to take students in the next academic session".