Closure of zilla parishad schools draws protests in Pune 

Politicos question govt decision; Javadekar says its outside ministry’s purview

pune Updated: Dec 05, 2017 15:43 IST
Ananya Barua
Ananya Barua
Hindustan Times, Pune
zilla paridhad,schools shut,maharashtra
Chhatra Bharati activists protest at collectorate on Monday. They have demanded a concrete solution from the government. (HT Photo)

Union human resources development (HRD) minister Prakash Javadekar on Monday denied to comment on state education minister Vinod Tawde’s announcement on December 2 to close down over 1,300 zilla parishad schools across the state owing to the reduced number of students.

Speaking to the media during his visit to Pune, Javadekar said that it was Tawde’s area of concern.

Meanwhile, a number of student associations in the city have opposed Tawde’s decision. Claiming it to be a move reflecting escapism, they said that the government’s focus should be towards improvement and not reduction of schools.

“Will the shutdown really solve the issues with these schools? The argument provided is that these schools have very few students and maintenance is overbearing. But what will happen to the students if these schools close down? The low enrolment in these schools is mostly because of the poor quality of education and, if that is the case, why not concentrate on that aspect,” said Kalpesh Yadav, Maharashtra Navnirman Vidyarthi Sena (MNVS) leader.

As per a government statement, on December 2, a total of 1,314 schools across the state, bearing 0 to 10 students, will be shut down owing to the reduced number of students, over poor quality of education. Among these, 10 are privately aided, and the others are part of the 4,353 schools under the zilla parishad. Of these, 76 are from Pune.

Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) state secretary Ram Satpute pointed out that the decision can come in the way of the students’ right to education. “It needs to be seen that the government doesn’t violate the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009. Students at no point should be losing out on their education for this. And if this is so, then the government needs to withdraw the decision. At any point, students of economically weaker sections have to strive for education and this move to shutdown schools can act as a deterrent to their education. What we simply ask is that the government should do a proper investigation and find better alternatives before implementing the shutdown,” he said.

Tawde, however, in his public statement on Saturday, had justified that some of the schools were found with zero students and many with a maximum of 10, during the inspection of 5,002 schools. He assured that these students will not be losing out as the teachers and students will be shifted to other schools with more students and will be provided with proper transport. Those schools, he said, as per the RTE Act will be within 1-kilometre radius for primary students and 3-kilometre for secondary students.

Claiming it to be a false hope, Chhatra Bharati president Datta Dhage said that for the students from remote areas where transportation is a far reality, such a move will mean denial of education to them in violation of RTE Act.

“The students for whom education is the only way of survival are going to be at a loss here. Plus, this move is in fact a masked attempt to promote privatisation of schools. Thus, making education available to selective students only,” he said. Chhatra Bharati will continue to protest till a concrete outcome is declared by the government.

MNVS has sent a letter to the minister to seek better and concrete solution to the problem. “We will wait for 2 to 3 days and if no concrete action is taken, we will take out a protest rally,” Yadav said.

First Published: Dec 05, 2017 14:59 IST