Maharashtra’s education minister Vinod Tawde says schools in the state are being encouraged to leave no stone unturned in ensuring a balance between academics and sports. Tawde talks about the state of sports infrastructure and the encouragement given to students to take up sports.
What is the state government doing about the status of sports facilities available in the state, especially in a space-strapped city like Mumbai?
We are thinking about sports on two levels: one, to encourage students to get away from gadgets and instead focus on physical activities, and two, to push them towards excellence and bring laurels to our country in the future. In rural parts of the state, grounds are available, appropriate facilities aren’t. In cities like Mumbai, space is an issue while facilities are many. We are trying to bridge this gap and seeking expert help to do so. Schools are being encouraged to promote sports ranging from football and cricket to the very basic kho-kho and malkhamb. We are using a holistic approach to this issue.
The Maharashtra education board’s decision to reintroduce grace marks for sports participation has brought fears once again that these grace marks can easily be misused. What’s the state’s stand on this?
We had discontinued grace marks in sports for all because we realised there was gross misuse of the advantage and only reintroduced it after we could ensure such a thing doesn’t happen. While earlier, marks was given for participation, now it’s only for students who win podium position in recognised district-, state- and national-level sports events. This works as great encouragement for those students who genuinely work hard on juggling sports and academics, to do better.
How is the government ensuring this advantage is not misused?
While earlier we took students’ word for granted when they provided certificates to us at the state board office, there now is a system in place where we get confirmation from those particular recognised event organisers. No marks are given out without the official confirmation of these organisations to the state government. The entire process is conducted online and is foolproof.
What about schools in a city like Mumbai, where most schools don’t have a playground or the funds to facilitate a recognised sports instructor?
We have ensured that the BMC is open to tie ups with several city schools so that they can use municipal playgrounds for sports activities for children. Schools with playground facilities have been requested to extend the benefit to other neighbouring school children and similarly. The government is trying to organise for sports instructors from recognised institutes to train our future athletes. We have to start taking sports seriously and other than marks, we also offer great government job posts to those who excel in sports.
Are there any other plans that the state government is currently working on to encourage sports in schools?
The sports and education department is constantly thinking of ways to push more students towards playgrounds and one of the schemes we are currently working on is to award marks to students in schools who spend a lot of time practising sports activities and need marks to pass the exams. This advantage will only be extended to students who are failing or need a push to clear exams in first class, and not to the others. We are trying to figure out a method that could help us record such activities regularly so that the same isn’t misused and once that is cleared, the government will implement the same.