Parents of the Wablewadi Zilla Parishad Primary School (WZPP) (estb.1980) in Shirur district, Pune are demanding an inquiry against Ayush Prasad, CEO, Zilla Parishad, Pune. The school made headlines last year after Prasad issued a notice suspending its principal, Dattatray Ware (November 23, 2021) for alleged financial irregularities. Claiming the ZP administration’s neglect of the school since Ware’s suspension has had an adverse impact on the school, the parents are holding Prasad responsible for more than 200 students quitting the school.
Dattatray Ware popularly known as Ware guruji became the poster boy of the state’s education department when he transformed WZPP from a regular Marathi medium government school, into a state-of-the-art school imparting international-level education. Starting with just 34 students, Ware’s promotion of innovative teaching and development works in the school saw the number of students go up to 706 as of November 2021. Another 2000 students were on the school’s long waiting list.
Using financial aid from corporates like Art of Living and FCA India Automobiles (Fiat) as well as contributions from the villagers, the school provided glass-enclosed, solar-powered air-conditioned classrooms, labs for maths, science, language, and robotics, a botanical garden, laptops, and internet connectivity for students. Its activity-based curriculum included coding, music, four foreign languages (Japanese, English, Spanish, and French), and even foundational courses to prepare students for competitive exams.
Wablewadi was the only school in the state to record 100 percent passing in class V and class VIII government scholarship exams from 2014-2021consecutively. The school’s robotics team was ranked among the top three in the international First Tech Challenge in 2017 organised by the US-based company FIRST.
Over 1.5 lakh ZP teachers from the state visited WZPP to study and replicate its processes in their schools. The school got international recognition and Ware guruji’s exemplary work got him the national award (2016).
However, in July 2021, acting against a complaint claiming principal Ware was demanding donations for the school, the ZP started investigating Ware guruji. A five-member committee appointed by the ZP administration in August found anomalies in the school’s accounts. It also found Ware guruji guilty of misusing his position and possessing disproportionate assets. Public outrage against the suspension resulted in Ware guruji being transferred to another ZP school in Khed, Pune district in February 2022.
However, the action against Ware guruji has resulted in a considerable drop in WZPP school’s educational standard. None of the 10 extra activities like robotics, language and music classes, etc. continue today and the number of students has dropped. As many as 140 of the 180 Anganwadi (pre-primary) students and another 72 students attending classes I-VIII quit the school after Ware guruji was suspended.
“In 2017, the government had permitted us to run the school through public contribution and that is what we were doing until the administration wrongly indicted Ware guruji. The government has only allotted 12 teachers, the rest of the 16 school teachers who taught the extra activities were paid from funds collected through public contributions. With Ware guruji gone, students have little interest in attending our school. The CEO has not responded to our letters nor has he met us when we attempted to do so,” says Sathish Kothewale, vice-president, WZPP school management committee.
According to the villagers, while the administration was quick to issue a suspension, there have been no visits from the zilla parishad administration or the CEO since then. The Wablewadi parents’ committee now wants the state’s chief minister Eknath Shinde and deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to investigate Ayush Prasad’s telephonic records for the past year. The committee also wants Ware guruji to be reinstated at the earliest.
Meanwhile, the ZP school at Jalinder Nagar, Khed Tehsil, Pune District where Ware guruji is teaching has witnessed student enrolments improving from a mere 13 students in February 2022 to 80 students in August 2022. The school’s curriculum now offers courses in robotics, French, Japanese, etc. The school has a single well-equipped laboratory, laptops for the children, a library, and virtual reality (VR) goggles, etc. Following Ware guruji’s directions, beautification projects like building a compound wall and garden have been taken up.
“Just like at Wablewadi, the funds for the modern tools and infrastructure projects have come from the villagers themselves since all of them want their children to get the best education. I am no longer the principal here but I have the support of the school principal as well as the administrative officers to take up these projects. I will continue to do whatever I have to as a teacher because when a school offers all the facilities, the children automatically enjoy attending school. It reflects in their overall performance too. I want to replicate the academic and extra-curricular excellence achieved by the Wablewadi students’ at this school too,” says Ware guruji.News, States