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Maharashtra: Teachers seek reversal of government decisions on contract teachers & school adoption

October 3, 2023
Ronita Torcato 
Education activists and teachers’ organisations have united to oppose the Maharashtra government school education department’s decisions to  hire contract teachers, encourage NGO adoption of schools, and replace  small schools with ‘clusters.’ 
 
The government’s agenda, activists contend, is privatisation of education which could lead to an increase in school drop-outs.
 
Mahatma Gandhi provided the inspiration to some 15 organisations  to embark on what they say is a new  ‘Satyagraha Movement’.
 
Subhash More, Maharashtra working president of Shikshak Bharati, a proactive teachers’ organisation, said, “We will take the path shown by the Father of the Nation to make the government realise its mistake. The first step is making the public especially parents aware of the  serious nature and grave implications of these decisions.”
 
Shikshak Bharati has dashed off letters to Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and filed writ petitions in the Bombay High court.
 
Later this month, voters registration will commence for teachers in the graduate constituency elections for Mumbai. “We will make proactive efforts  to create awareness and register persons with proper  knowledge so that  the right people raise their voices in the House  against these decisions,” More said.
 
Maharashtra has 1.10 lakh schools of which around 65, 000 are run by the government.  Data from the Unified District Information System for Education ( UDISE)  shows that as many as 147, 83 schools in the state  have less than 20 students enrolled.
 
As regards the proposal on school clusters teachers are apprehensive that these will force  small schools to shut down.
 
More said, “The scheme  violates the Right To Education (RTE) which makes it mandatory for the government to provide a primary school within 1 km from the residence and secondary school within 3kms. This will lead to an increased drop-out rate in schools in rural areas. By shirking responsibility, the government has only demonstrated its  incompetence in providing basic education to children. Worse,  the labour department has approved contractual hiring which also includes teachers.”
 
It may be recalled that the state government, on September 6, had issued a government resolution (GR) to outsource manpower from various government and semi-government organisations in  74 different categories, including teachers in the skilled category. 
 
From these, 65 posts will be filled in the category of highly skilled manpower, 10 in the unskilled category, eight in the semi-skilled category, and 50 posts in the skilled category to be filled through a contractor.
 
Teachers’ unions have opposed the decision and urged the government to withdraw the GR.
 
“By including the teachers in the skilled manpower category, the posts of D.Ed. and B.Ed, along with Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) qualified teachers in the state, will be filled through the private contractors ”  More warned.
 
Corporate adoption of schools is already in practice for quite a few years now. 
 
The head of an NGO.which works with the Central government said, ” Low budget (private schools ) were already functioning and doing well but the  government  put a lot of restrictions on them so many are closing down.
Clusters make more sense especially in remote areas as the number of students is very low per school – but this can be done successfully  as long as there is transportation for the kids to commute to  schools.”
 
Veteran teacher-activist Bhausaheb Chaskar said, “ Providing quality education to underprivileged children  is the responsibility of the government. But in the past few years, companies have been providing funds for educational  facilities through CSR. The decision to allow adoption of schools by companies seems risky.  There is no guarantee that these companies  will adhere to the law. After all, corporates are  motivated by the sole motive of making profits”. 
 
A senior teacher from a Central Mumbai institution agrees: “Yes. That’s the aim. I think Adani and Ambani type of families will step in. We had a school for 30 years and closed it down as unaided!”
 
Meanwhile, teachers organisations are furiously hashtagging  #savepublicschools and #savemarathishala (save Marathi schools) on social media, while  offline meetings are being held in Mumbai, Pune and other towns jn Maharashtra to work out a plan of action to oppose the government’s decisions.
 
Posted in News, States
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