Mumbai students on Friday trudged back to schools after more than a week-long break for the city’s favourite festival, Ganeshotsav. While students enjoyed a relatively longer holiday this year, schools will now compensate for the loss of academic days by working on Saturdays and truncating Diwali and Christmas vacations, said principals.
Majority of the schools were closed from September 5 to September 15, with a few staying open on September 12 and September 14. September 13 was the official Bakrid holiday. Schools had acquiesced to a longer Ganpati break this year under pressure from the demands of the Maharashtra Navnirman Vidyarthi Sena (MNVS), the student of wing of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
But schools are now falling short of the minimum working days — 220 for Classes 1 to 8, 230 for Classes 9 and 10 — required by the Right to Education Act, 2009 and other state government rules.
As a result, they have cut down on the upcoming holidays. Don Bosco School, Borivli, which is usually closed on Saturdays, will work on September 17. It will be the first of many working Saturdays for the school. “The school had been shut for exactly 10 days starting from Janmashtami, which means we need to work extra,” said Father William Falcao, manager of the school that was forced to cancel classes on Janmashtami by the MNVS.
The measures to make up for the shortfall may eat into the Diwali vacations and may upset travel plans of many families, admitted Falcao. “We are aware that it will be a problem for parents, many of whom must have already booked their flight tickets for Diwali break, but we are left without an alternative,” added Falcao.
St. Mary’s (SSC), Mazgaon, has received a circular from the education department asking it to begin Diwali holidays from October 28, which is the first day of the festival, this year. Usually, the vacation begins four to five days before Diwali. “This suits us as we would have had to cut down on the vacations anyway to meet the minimum working days,” said Father Jude Fernandes, principal of the school. Others haven’t received this circular yet.
Some will reduce Christmas holidays along with Diwali, they said. “A couple of days will be snipped from both the vacations, to be fair to all, to adjust the working days,” said Albin Anthony, chief operating officer of Sacred Heart School, Kalyan.
Meanwhile, a few non-state board schools said their vacations will remain the same as they are usually shorter than state board schools. “Our 15-day Diwali break will be unaffected as the Ganpati break coincided with our mid-term break,” said Paul Machado, SJ, Campion School, Cooperage, affiliated to the ICSE.
Educators complained that political pressure to give longer breaks for religious festivals and frequent token day celebrations declared by the government are leaving them with no time to complete the syllabus. “Teachers are getting very little classroom time. In the last two years, the non-instructional days have also increased, we are forced hurry the syllabus,” said Ganesh Parmeshwaran, Bal Bharti Public School, Navi Mumbai.