Pune: “Sharad Pawar and Supriya Sule have never lied in their social and political journey so far, and more so, we have never brought politics into education,” said MP Supriya Sule while interacting with the media here on Monday.
She was responding to an accusation by State Education Minister Vinod Tawde that people opposing the shutting down of 1,300 Zilla Parishad schools in the State are liars. Tawde was keen on the use of the word merger, and insisted that just the school buildings are being shut and schools will merge.
Speaking about the issue, Sule said, “I am not against improving the quality of education in the State, which the government keeps saying is the reason behind the said ‘merger’ of schools. However, lack of proper study and planning will just end up deteriorating the system as there might be high number of dropouts.”
She said the move breaks many provisions of the Right to Education (RTE) Act and added, “We are procuring data from various districts and data obtained by me about schools in Pune district and my constituency isn’t showing a good picture. According to the RTE Act, the distance from a child’s home to a school shouldn’t be more than 6 km. However, we have so many examples where the distance from the old school to the new one itself is more than 3 kms. We also have to consider cases of remote tribal villages.”
She noted that the RTE Act states that a school cannot be shut down if the villagers there are against the closure. However, there are many examples where villages where schools are marked to be shut down are protesting against it.
“In Pune district, 76 schools were marked to be shut down. Out of these 19 have been shut, or merged into other schools that are within a 1 km distance. However, 57 others haven’t yet been shut as students and villagers there want the schools to run. Thus, Pune Zila Parishad has decided to run these schools on their own, despite the State government’s orders to shut them,” said Vivek Valse Patil, Vice-President, Pune ZP. Sule said Pune is the only ZP till now that has made such a decision.
Over the government’s claims that the schools that are being merged have less than 10 students as people are admitting their children to nearby private schools, Vasant Kalpande, former chairperson of Maharashtra State Board, said, “In many of these villages, the population itself is scarce. Also, people are migrating constantly, due to which, the number of students is very low some years.”
Sule asked the government the basis and the parameters according to which the schools to be ‘merged’ are shortlisted. She also pointed out that while Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis keeps stating that Maharashtra has jumped in ranking from number 16 to number three as far as quality of education is concerned, he fails to answer which study/report has given the said rankings.
“The reports by ASER and Pratham, that are considered to be the most credible and are quoted by everyone in the Assembly, have stopped giving rankings for the past few years. I agree that there is no deterioration in the quality of education in the past four years, but who is saying that our State has made such a drastic improvement?,” Sule further asked.
After Supriya Sule’s presser, Vinod Tawde issued a statement saying, “In the tuition of Baramati, ‘dada’ and ‘tai’ teach how to draw water through corruption in the dam construction. I do not need Pawar school. For me, SSC board is enough. This board teaches honesty.”
‘Politics in education not right’
Drawing attention to a book meant as supplementary reading for students at ZP schools, Sule said that bringing a political agenda into education isn’t the right thing to do. The book in question is titled ‘Chacha Chaudhary Ani Modi’. The book is given to ZP students for reading and is a part of the 69 books bought by the State government on the lives of Mahatma Phule, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, Mahatma Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Is it right that an initiative like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is bringing in books about a political figure? While the said book is about cleanliness linking it to the Swachh Bharat Mission, wouldn’t Sant Gadgebaba be a much greater idol to be looked upon here? Education is a serious issue, and it’s unfair to bring marketing into it,” Sule stated.