'Shutting schools because of Modi’s visit devalues education’

  • Aneesha Bedi, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Sep 13, 2015 21:43 IST
PM Narendra Modi had also invited schoolchildren to attend the convocation ceremony of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (Keshav Singh/HT)

The UT administration’s decision to declare a holiday in 187 schools of the region on Friday because of PM Modi’s visit has received flak from the city’s residents.

Orders issued by the authorities saw the shutting of all schools across the UT, regardless of actual locality Modi was visiting. A senior official of the education department on the condition of anonymity accepted that it was a ‘mistake on their part to not declare the holiday earlier’. However, the official added that the decision was taken keeping in mind the safety of children.

School buses used for rally: Reason for holiday?

But the twist came when school buses from prominent convent schools of the city were seen ferrying supporters for the PM’s rally at Sector 25. Bus operator Manjit Singh told HT; “While more of tourist buses were hired for this purpose, many schools were also approached to give their buses for ferrying people for the rally, since holiday had already been declared.” Similarly, principal of Tender Heart School, Vikrant Suri also shared that he got a call from a bus operator asking him to give four of his school’s buses for the rally.

“I was getting calls till today morning in this regard,” he said. He added, “I think it was an unfortunate decision but I guess looking the technical aspect considering Chandigarh is a grid-city, it might have lead to chaos otherwise."

‘Disruption could have been avoided’

HS Mamik, president, Independent School Association (ISA), said this could have been easily avoided. He said it was easy to pick on schools as they have no option but to abide by what the authorities say. Even Suri said that ‘had the schools been informed three-four days in advance, it could have helped plan things’.

Nidhi Rana, a social studies teacher at a local school, said, “It’s strange how we were asked to work on October 2 last year for launching Swacch Bharat followed by the EDUSAT live telecast on Teacher’s Day when it could have rather been a holiday, and then for schools to be instructed to remain shut when exams are on, says it all. Is that the kind of importance the education system hold in our society?”

Similarly, another parent of a student studying in Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 35, said, “We are a democracy and various ministers make many such trips. So, will a holiday be declared every single time. It is convenient for the PM to lodge an inquiry when he himself is engaging in VIP culture. This is like devaluing the importance of education in our society” The PM later on Friday, regretted the inconvenience caused to citizens and specifically mentioned “shutting of schools due to my visit” in his tweet.

Meanwhile, St John’s principal Kavita C Das informed that the exam in her school which had been scheduled for Friday was most likely to re-scheduled towards the end of the month as the last exam. “If we shift it to Monday, it will interfere with the student’s revision schedule as they had been studying as per date sheet,” she said.

Govt school students attend PGI convocation; PM calls them ‘chief guests’

Ironically, a group of 19 students from a couple of local government schools attended the PGI convocation, on PM’s request. While many students sat at home in view of the holiday declared in schools, few others from six schools including Government Model School, Sector 16, Sector 18, Sector 21 got a chance to interact with Narendra Modi at PGIMER.

The PM, in his speech said that on his request to the PGI authorities, few school students were invited for the function. Modi stated, “Children from government schools are here. Being here will leave a great impact on their minds. It will inspire them.”

Yogita, a student of Class 9, Government school, Sector 21, said, “The PM came and interacted with us and I even got to shake hands with him. He asked me my name,” while others said he inquired about how their studies were coming along. Dheeraj Sharma, the teacher was accompanied the bunch of students said,
“Modiji immediately came towards the row where our students were seated after he came down from the stage and interacted with them.”

The PM regretted the inconvenience caused to the residents of the city because of his visit and in his tweet specifically rued the shutting down of schools.

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