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Move to privatise 300 schools triggers protests in villages

Resentment is building up in Rajasthan against the BJP government’s decision to handover 300 schools to private players on a pilot basis

jaipur Updated: Jan 13, 2018 20:34 IST
Urvashi Dev Rawal
Urvashi Dev Rawal
Hindustan Times, Deeppura-Rajaji (Sikar)
300 schools,protests in villages,PPP
Villagers protest against the privatisation of Shaheed Surjaram government school at Deeppura Rajaji in Sikar district.(Himanshu Vyas/HT Photo)

Resentment is building up in Rajasthan against the BJP government’s decision to handover 300 schools to private players on a pilot basis. Villagers across the state are staging sit-ins outside schools to be given on public private partnership (PPP) mode.

At some places villagers are taking to novel ways to express their opposition to the government decision. In Bikaner district villagers have put locks on gates of all seven schools to be given to private players.

In Chuvasa village of Sikar district villagers and school children recreated the ‘Chipko’ movement of Uttarkhand by clinging to the walls of the senior secondary school to oppose privatisation.

Under the Policy for Public Private Partnership in School Education 2015 that was notified on September 12, 2017, the government has identified 300 schools to be given on a pilot basis to private partners through a competitive bidding process.

Private parties will be free to appoint teaching and non-teaching staff. Government teachers will be adjusted in other government schools.

Villagers, activists and teachers’ associations are criticising the government for abandoning its responsibility to provide education and for handing over its land and resources to private parties.

At the Rajkiya Balika Madhyamik Vidyalaya in Raisar, in Bikaner district 350 km west of Jaipur, villagers have locked school gates since the past five days.

The school has 240 students and 21 teachers and facilities like classrooms, benches, lights, fans, toilets and water coolers.

Former sarpanch Narayan Singh said the school has recorded good results between 80% and 90% in the past three years.

“If the facilities and the quality of education is good then why should this school be given on PPP mode?” he asked. “The private parties will increase fee and employ poorly trained teachers.”

The scene is similar at the Rajkiya Madhyamik Vidyalaya, Nokha. The school with 329 students 13 teachers has good infrastructure.

Shiv Karan Vishnoi, a shopkeeper whose children have studied in the school, said, “Villagers have provided facilities, we won’t let it go to private parties who will charge hefty fee. Then where will our children go?”

Ramniwas Bishnoi, an advocate who along with seven other philanthropists gave Rs 37 lakh for upgrading school infrastructure such as five rooms, lights, fans, tables chairs, a water tank, said there were 150 students from Dalit community.

“How will the poor students afford school if the private party charges high fee?”

The common refrain among villagers is that if the government is concerned about improving quality, why weren’t schools chosen in remote locations that face shortage of teachers and facilities.

At the Shahid Surjaram government secondary school in Deeppura-Rajaji village, 130 km east of Jaipur, villagers have been sitting on a dharna since a month.

The school has 251 students and 14 teachers. The school is named after Surjaram Jat, an alumnus who was martyred in Srinagar in 2000.

“The school’s 15 rooms have been added over the years by the villagers,” said headmaster Pratap Singh Burdak. He claims even private school schools are shifting here.

“Villagers provide school uniforms and sweaters to students and have contributed for other facilities. Why is it being given to private players when it is doing well?” asked Parmeshwar Dhakad whose niece studies in class 7.

CPI (M) leader and former MLA Amraram accuses the government of facilitating land grab by corporate. “They are giving away resources to corporate. In many instances, land and other facilities for schools have been donated by businessmen, villagers or other philanthropists.”

There are around 80,000 government schools in Rajasthan with some 3 lakh teachers. Over the years government schools in Rajasthan have been plagued by poor quality of education, low enrolments, high dropout rate, lack of teachers and infrastructure and staff absenteeism.

The BJP government claims it has improved quality of education by setting up Adarsh schools, rationalising postings of teachers and increased enrolment in government schools by 17 lakh in the last four years.

Ram Krishan Agarwal, president of the All Rajasthan School Teachers’ Union, said: “If the government claims it has improved its schools, then why the need to privatise?” It will deny education to the underprivileged students. It is the government’s responsibility to provide education.”

School education minister Vasudev Devnani insisted that no good government schools are being given and students will continue to get facilities like free uniforms, text-books and mid-day meals.

“We are trying this on a pilot basis. The private partner will be given management of the school for 10 years to improve education,” he said.

First Published: Jan 13, 2018 20:34 IST