The month-long protests against the government’s decision to put 6,028 proposals to start privately-run Marathi schools will end on February 27, celebrated as Marathi Bhasha Divas.
The Shikshan Hakka Samanvaya Samiti, a network of schools organising the protest along with other groups, will march from Mahatma Phule’s house in Pune to Mantralaya.
“Every month, the government accepts proposals from English medium schools but it has not been accepting any for unaided Marathi schools for the past three years,” said Panjabrao Varje, chairperson of a school in Aurangabad, and one of the parties that had filed a case in the Aurangabad bench of Bombay High Court in 2008 when the government stopped accepting proposals.
“There needs to be good Marathi-medium schools or else people will migrate to English-medium schools.”
The government has put all proposals to start new privately-run primary and secondary schools on hold as it is mapping Marathi-medium schools for the state master plan that will identify areas that need new schools. The master plan has been in the making since 2008.
“If someone starts a school where there is already a school, then there will be unnatural competition in the area, numbers will be affected. Once the mapping is done, we will begin to advertise. I am sympathetic to their cause but one has to wait,” said Rajendra Darda, school education minister.
Darda, who took charge of the education portfolio last November, is the state’s first full-time school education minister in the past three years. School management officials met Darda last week to discuss the matter and have also sent a letter to the chief minister outlining their demands.
“There is a procedure for getting permission to operate schools, which the schools have followed,” said Ramesh Pense, an educationist. “But the government has refuses to permit these schools to operate.”
‘Good schools are a must’
There is a great need and a demand for unaided Marathi schools in the state say private school administrators, despite the enforcement of the Right to Education Act that mandates for state governments to provide free and compulsory primary education.
Since the government has not given permission for the opening of any new Marathi medium unaided schools since 2008, a group of non-profits and schools will be launching their agitation at the end of the month.
“Everyone has different choices, different needs, different income levels and correspondingly there should be different kinds of schools for people to choose from,” said Panjabrao Varje, chairperson of a school in Aurangabad.
"We need to have good Marathi schools or else everyone will leave and go to English medium schools.”
School authorities point out that schools run by local authorities are not up to the mark.
“In many areas, either there are no zilla parishad schools or they are far or not functioning properly,” said Deepak Powar, president of the Marathi Abhyas Kendra. Private schools are necessary for many reasons, say experts.
“We are a mixed economy so both private and public should be allowed to function together,” said Ramesh Panse, an educationist.