The National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to the Odisha government and the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development after taking suo motu cognizance of a media report that said that many government-run primary and upper primary schools in the state have been shut down.

The media report, published in The Hindu on January 21, said that 828 schools were closed in 2016-17 across the state as they had fewer than 10 students each. The most affected districts were Rayagada, where 124 schools were closed, and Kandhamal, where 101 were shut. The report also raised concerns about the Right to Education of the students, many of whom belong to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and other backward communities.

Students and parents prefer either residential schools or the private schools that have cropped up, because they have better facilities and food, The Hindu said, adding that the number of teachers in government schools is also not adequate.

“Opening of private schools cannot be a solution for the shortcomings being faced by the students and the parents in the government schools,” the commission said in a press statement on Tuesday. “There seems to be an extreme need for a thorough study of the entire scenario by taking into confidence all the stakeholders to build a healthy environment of education at the primary and upper primary level to tackle the menace of dropouts.”

The commission has asked the Odisha government and the Union ministry to reply within eight weeks.