AISF blocked vehicles. Struggling students organisations raised slogans against Tawde.
Various students’ organisations in Amravati, including All India Students Federation (AISF) and others, stopped Education minister Mr. Vinod Tawde’s car and showed black flags. He was visiting Amravati on December 27 on the occasion of Bhausaheb Panjabrao Deshmukh’s birth anniversary and the inauguration of Khel Mahotsav in Zila Parishad school. The students were protesting the recent decision of closing down more than 1300 schools in Maharashtra.
In the wake of a Government resolution (GR) released in August 2017, allowing individuals and organisations, specifically companies registered under section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013 to open schools, as many as 1300 government schools with an attendance of less than 10 students face closure. The pilot project for the move has been given to Reliance. The company will be responsible for 130 schools to be opened up as part of this project, said District Secretary of AISF, Himanshu Atkare. The students were also protesting the government’s move towards privatisation and proposed cut off of government jobs by 30%.
The police detained state secretary of AISF, Sagar Duryodhan in the morning of December 27 on preventive detention. Of the 15-20 students present, 12 students were detained. “When we stopped his car, he came out and asked us to submit a letter. How can we submit a letter when we are showing black flags and clearly protesting this move?” asked Himanshu. Students were arrested immediately and released only after filing cases.
The GR proposed earlier that private firms could earn profit from their ‘services’ as so far only public trusts and government and charitable organisations run schools. To this end, the Maharashtra state government also sought amendments to Maharashtra Self-financed Schools (Establishment and Regulation) Act, 2012. According to the government, this move is being made to promote a “competitive era” in the schooling system.
The school education department identified 4353 schools and 69 private schools which have less than 10 students enrolled in them. There are around 28,412 students in these 4422 schools. So far 1314 schools had been identified from where the students and teachers will be shifted out. As per the RTE Act, 2005 primary schools should be within a 1.5-km radius of the student’s residence. It doesn’t matter if the school has very few students. If there are students, then there should be a school. It is being predicated that closing down of schools will make schools inaccessible for students without having an alternate infrastructure in place. Instead of improving the quality of education and ensuring teaching aids and mechanisms that will sustain students’ interests, the government has resorted to the sudden closing down of schools. This move towards privatisation is in line with the Niti Ayog proposal to “hand over schools, colleges, jails to private sector” and will prove disastrous for students from marginalized backgrounds.