Even as some opposition parties and teacher unions are busy opposing the state government's decision to merge primary schools falling within 1 km radius of each other, as part of its rationalising policy, village panchayats have started the fight to save of their respective schools.
In order to keep their village schools running, they are seen making rounds of the education department office or knocking at the doors of leaders of the ruling alliance. The leaders do not want to alienate anyone, but keeping them in good humour is proving a tough task as the panchayats want recommendation in black and white. To get out of the imbroglio, some wily 'netas' are known to have advocated the case of the both the warring factions that approached them; of one on paper and of the other, telephonically.
In the district, 75 schools are set to lose existence, some of which are situated just across the road from the other primary school with which they are proposed to be merged. The main criteria for merger is infrastructure but panchayats do not want locks to be put on schools even when they have very little or no facility. Some of these schools are running under the education department and the others under the zila parishads. On the revised instructions of education minister Sikandar Singh Maluka and director general of school education (DGSE) Kahan Singh Pannu, the department is consulting all stakeholders before finalising the merger.
District education officer (primary) Ram Pal Singh said no decision would be taken in haste. “Our teams are inspecting all schools whether run by department, municipal council or zila parishad and after verifying all factors and consulting authorities concerned, decision on merger would be taken,” said Singh.
Some teacher organisations, however, are protesting against the merger, fearing that teachers of the closed down schools might get shifted to far-off places.
Government Teachers' Union district general secretary Amandeep Sharma said the union would intensify the agitation to compel government rollback its decision. “The merger policy would prevent thousands of poor children from getting education. For the last so many years, the government has been spending crores on construction of boundary walls, rooms, kitchen sheds, etc., and all of a sudden, it has decided to put a lock on these schools. It is a conspiracy to demolish the government-run education system,” said Sharma.