Over 5,000 teachers from private unaided schools in Mumbai will not have to do election-related work in the coming municipal corporation polls. The Bombay high court on Tuesday granted a temporary stay to teachers from doing election duties until the next hearing.
The Unaided Schools Forum had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the court last week against the election commission for roping in school teachers and staff to do election work.“Assigning poll duties to school teachers and staff is illegal according to election laws,” said SC Kedia, honorary secretary of the Forum. “The court has given a stay on the duties till the next hearing.”
While the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, states that teachers cannot be assigned non-educational work except for poll and census duties and disaster relief, the Forum said that it is not applicable to all schools. “Private unaided minority schools are exempted from the RTE Act,” said Kedia.
Several schools received circulars from the Forum, which consists of more than 300 private schools, asking them not to go for any election duty related work. This means they will not attend training sessions, which will begin in the next few days.
“The circular states that teachers will not participate in the election duty because the matter is sub-judice,” said Rohan Bhat, chairperson of the Children’s Academy Group of Institutions, Kandivli and Borivli. “We have to conduct internal assessments for Class 10 students and complete the syllabus in time for our own school exams,” said Bhat.
Schools were opposed to doing poll-duty because teachers are busy conducting exams in February. This year, the dates of the orals and practical papers of the SSC and HSC board exams are clashing with dates of the upcoming civic polls. Even non-state boards such as ICSE and CBSE have scheduled their exams close to that time.
Teachers from government-aided schools have also demanded exemption from the duties. Despite meetings with education officials, their pleas have fallen on deaf ears so far. “Aided schools are already short-staffed and cannot afford to spare teachers for election work,” said Anil Bornare, teacher, Swami Muktananda High School, Chembur.