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Education minister's college touches new low

Maharashtra?s School Education Minister Vasant Purke, who harps about wanting to improve the quality of education in schools, does not even provide the most basic facilities in his own college.

india Updated: Nov 07, 2006 14:47 IST

A few benches thrown together make for a classroom. In an open field, straw mats supported by bamboo sticks act as dividers for men’s toilets. A lonely table and stove under a staircase make for the canteen.

A plastic tank from which you draw water with a pot is the drinking water supply. Welcome to Maharashtra’s School Education Minister Vasant Purke’s Indira Gandhi Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) College at Ralegaon (780 km east of Mumbai) in Yavatmal district.

Purke, who harps about wanting to improve the quality of education in schools, does not even provide the most basic facilities in his own college. A tribal leader, the college is located in Purke’s own constituency.

 
Top: Students of the Indira Gandhi Bachelor of Education (B Ed) College at Rawalgaon have to manage with makeshift toilets in the open. Above: The canteen of the college.

Shankar Pawar (name changed), a student of the college, told the

Hindustan Times

, “We do not even have proper bathrooms. It is particularly shameful for girls, who have to use a corner that is covered with mats.”

“We do not have proper books or a reading room,” said Jyoti Anand (name changed), adding that there isn’t even a notice board. Circulars, she said, were pasted on the college wall.

What’s worse, the two-year-old college has gone and hiked the fees from Rs 27,950 to Rs 37,750, infuriating students and parents. And it’s not just the infrastructure. Students say the quality of education too is sub-standard. The one-year course has seven subjects but only three professors, said Ashish Uttarwar, an activist of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad — the student organisation the college’s 70-odd students approached for help.

“Students from rural areas like Vidarbha and Raigad undergo great hardship to collect the fees. The hike may cost some of us our careers,” said Pawar.

Principal Virendra Nimje admitted to a shortage of professors. “There are very few good B.Ed professors, so we have to make do with poorly qualified ones,” he said.

About the lack of facilities, he said the college was only two years old and construction was still on. He said the necessary facilities would be available after construction on a 20,000 sq ft area finished in two months.

Purke was unrepentant about the fee hike. He insisted that it was “as per government norms”, adding that students had been informed in advance about it.

“The hike was necessary to accelerate the college’s growth,” said Purke. He claimed that he was making the “best use” of the four-acre campus land that was allotted to him by the government.

But students aren’t buying his explanation. Anand said the fee hike wasn’t the only way the college tried to make money. Absentees were fined Rs 50 per day, while latecomers were fined Rs 20. “This is exorbitant,” she said. “The college is outside the main town and the roads leading to it are in poor shape.”

But Purke refused to acknowledge the lack of facilities. He insisted they were the best “as per rural standards”. “In fact,” he claimed, “Our library has the best books in the region.”

Speaking about his special attachment to the college, Purke said he often made surprise visits there and planned to build a huge garden on the campus. “Students are only complaining because they are angry at the fee hike,” he claimed.

This isn’t the first time Purke has found himself in the midst of a controversy. Some months ago, he attempted to introduce eight ‘baseline tests’ every year for Classes 1 to 7 in all SSC schools. The proposal was strongly opposed by parents and schools as it would raise the academic burden on students. The government was subsequently forced to put the tests on hold.

Email Sumitra Roy: sumitra.roy@hindustantimes.com