– Dipta Joshi
Religious and other linguistic minorities administered educational institutes in Gujarat are demanding the state government rescind the Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (Amendment) Act, 2021 which curtails their administrative rights. Effective June 1, the new law withdraws minority-run schools’ powers to appoint teaching and non-teaching staff including the school principal. A group of religious minority schools comprising Christian, Parsi, Muslim and Jewish schools have approached the Gujarat High Court on June 7 to get the Act quashed.
The Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (Amendment) Act, 2021 which was passed by the state’s legislative assembly on March 31, brings religious, linguistic and other minority-run educational institutions under the ambit of the state’s Central Recruitment Committee (CRC). The committee’s selection process, which until the amendment were applicable to government and other grant-in-aid schools only, will now select and appoint staff to minority institutions on the basis of its merit list. All merit lists consider the candidate’s qualification and teachers’ aptitude test (TAT) scores.
According to the Act, minority school managements that fail to appoint the chosen candidate within seven days of the selection will be liable for punitive action including being de-recognised by the state’s education department.
Citing the need for uniform quality of education amongst schools in Gujarat, the government says its decision to set up a regulatory body for the appointment of teachers does not interfere in the administration of minority schools. However, minority schools and church-managed Christain minority schools who often appoint priests and nuns as heads of their schools without considering their educational qualifications or their TAT scores beg to differ.
“The Gujarat government has been chiseling away the autonomy of minority schools little by little over the years and administrative autonomy was all we were left with now. All Supreme Court judgements, including the 11-judge landmark TMA Pai Foundation versus State of Karnataka judgement (2002), have always upheld the minority institution’s right to selection and appointment of staff. However by quoting the TMA Pai judgement partially – “Excellence in education is required,” the state has withdrawn minority institutions’ guaranteed administrative right to staff appointments too. Also all minority institutions require persons sharing the same ideology, ethos and philosophy to lead the institution. However, the government’s new rules rob us of our religious identity too,” says father (Fr.) Teles Fernandes, secretary, Gujarat Education Board of Catholic Institutions (GEBCI).
The GEBCI has 181 registered schools as its members of which 63 are grant-in-aid schools where the government pays the staff salaries.
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