Hundreds of schoolteachers from across the state gathered outside the mini-secretariat to protest against the policies of the education department on Friday.
The protesters claimed that several policies proposed and implemented by the department were exploiting the teachers and bringing down the standard of education in the state.
Among the most-pressing problems, they said, is the scheme to open various Adarsh schools in Punjab in public-private partnership.
“Around 1,000 such schools are proposed to come up in the state in the next year. The scheme is a big scam by the government. In the name of providing free education to talented underprivileged children, it is giving away land to private companies for peanuts,” said Sudhakar Singh Sarabha, district president, Government School Teachers' Union.
The union was joined by Primary Teachers' Association and 7654 Sanjha Front Teachers Union, Punjab, in the protest that began at 3 pm and went on for a couple of hours.
After raising slogans and making speeches against the state government, the protesters submitted a memorandum to the district commissioner.
The protesters claimed the decision of the department to close around 200 primary schools in the state by merging the schools falling within the radius of 1 km was flawed.
While the department's earlier decision to close down 690 schools in 22 districts of Punjab had been rolled back following similar protests and the number brought down to 200, the protesting teachers said even this would affect the access to education for children.
“This is in violation of the 1968 National Policy on Education that makes it mandatory for every district to have a primary school after every kilometre,” said Charanjit Singh Sarabha, a member of the Government School Teachers' Union.
State education minister Sikandar Singh Maluka's new rationalisation policy that has fixed the student-teacher ratio in government schools too drew flak from the members.
The policy has been inviting the ire of teachers and witnessing protests across the state ever since it was proposed.
“The actual rationalisation policy framed by the Centre required the student-teacher ratio to be 30:1. However, the one framed by the Punjab government states that the ratio should be 45:1, which is unacceptable,” said Sarabha.
“Moreover, the government is taking into account the number of students as on 30 November, 2012, even when they should count the number as on 30 April, 2013,” he added.
The members also asked for regularisation of the contractual teachers, arguing that while the state had around 1 lakh posts for teachers, only around 50,000 had regular teachers, while the rest were on contract basis.
“The contract-based teachers are being paid a third of the salary of their regular counterparts. This is unjustified,” a member of the union said.