Facing resistance from more than 3.5 lakh teachers and fearing a political backlash, the Rajasthan government may drop a proposal to hand over state-run schools to private players.
The new policy under a public private partnership (PPP) model that was drafted by the BJP government, to hand over more than 70,000 state-run school to the private education sector may be put on the back-burner, says minister of state for school education Vasudev Devnani.
If gover nment efforts to improve the quality of education in schools show results, there will be no need for the PPP, he says.
“The government is setting up Adarsh schools, which will have adequate teachers, proper infrastructure and facilities. If we can run that successfully, we might not need PPP in education.”
The new education policy has been put up on the website of the education department inviting public suggestions and the government is considering them, he says.
Teacher and activists have been protesting against the new policy ever since the draft was made public in May. They say that the government’s intention was to hand over land to big corporate houses and “saffronise” education.
Under the garb of improving education, the government wants to hand over its land to corporate, says Kavita Srivastrava of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties
“The poor children will be left out of the education system.”
Activists and teachers do not buy the government’s explanation is that it does not have the financial ability and needs support from the private sector to push forward its development policies.
“The government was ‘saffronising’ education and wants to hand over schools to Hindu right wing organisations like the RSS,” says Nikhil Dey of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan.
Teachers fear that once the schools are handed over to private players, they will either be replaced or transferred.
“We will oppose all attempts by the government to hand over schools to private parties,” says Shashi Bhushan Sharma, of the Rajasthan Shiksha Evam Shikshak Bachao Sanyukt Morcha, an amalgam of 32 organisations. “Under the new policy, there is no job security for teachers,” he says.
Apart from this, the negative political fallout of any attempt to force the policy seemed to weigh on the mind of the government.
After all, 3.5 lakh odd teachers is a large vote bank.
“I met party leaders and told them that if the government tried to force this (handing over of school) it would send a wrong signal to the people,” says Bagru legislator Kailash Verma, who has opposed privatization.
“It would give the impression that the government is working for interests of corporate and against the poor.”
Five selected schools will be handed over to the private education sector on a pilot basis, says an official of the Rajasthan Council of Secondary Education.
In March, the education department had issued a notification asking the five schools to get their properties evaluated by the state public works department before inviting bids from organisations that have experience of running at least 100 schools. The schools were selected on the basis of a survey by the government, the official says.