Amusing it may seem but in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, the Akali government of Punjab has appointed 7,612 education volunteers last month to teach 10,840 school dropouts.
The government’s move of February 12 was aimed at pacifying hundreds of education volunteers who were protesting in Bathinda after the death of an agitator’s 14-month-old daughter, Eknoor Kaur “Rooth”. However, it brings the pupil-teacher ratio to almost 1:1 instead of 30:1 mandated under The Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009. Taken aback by the decision, the Punjab and Haryana high court has directed the state government to explain.
“This is total mismatch,” observed justice Rajesh Bindal, while hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the state government decision. The orders came on Friday when principal secretary for school education Anjali Bhawra, submitted her reply.
The petitioners’ counsel submitted that the state government had accepted in earlier reply that after closing three programmes (the Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS); Alternative and Innovative Education (AIE); and Special Training Resource (STR)), 10,840 was the number of school dropouts and never-enrolled children. Bhawra’s affidavit about the review of these schemes claimed that 7,612 education volunteers had been hired.
The court put the matter on the urgent list for next hearing.
It was on February 12 that the Punjab government had issued a notification to resume the EGS, AIE, and STR schemes for the next two years by paying from the state exchequer. The education volunteers from the closed schemes were asked to report in the office of the respective district education officer (elementary) within seven days.
The petitioners, including Rajinder Singh of Ludhiana, had approached the high court alleging that the selection was not being made through open advertisement for all eligible candidates. Many of the volunteers being hired had not even elementary teachers training (ETT) and Bachelor of Education (BEd) certificates but the candidates with minimum qualification were being ignored, the petitioners submitted.