Pune: The year 2017 could rightly be called ‘Year of Protests’ in the State’s education sector, as almost all stakeholders in the field, right from parents, teachers, to private schools, protested against the State’s policies.
While there was a row over the fee hike issue in the admission season, the teachers were irked over the load of digitisation of the Education Department that they have to bear and the private schools protested over the “government interference” in their day-to-day activities.
Parents’ protest over fee hike
The admission season this year was shadowed by the protests of parents frustrated with the private schools over unreasonable fee hike. Several parents’ association in Pune and across the State, raised their voice against the fee hike. Parents stated that the fee hike proposed by most of the schools was illegal and should be stopped immediately. Following the parents’ agitations, the Education Department stopped the fee hike at many of the listed schools and a new provision was made to include parents on the Fee Regulation Act (FRA) Committee.
However, although the parents proposed amendments to the Act, to make it friendlier towards parents, not many of those were actually implemented. “Despite having the Fee Regulation Act, there is no implementation. Education Minister is practically doing nothing. Two years ago he promised that he would call for the balance sheets of the schools and regulate fee hike, but none of this has ever materialised and the schools are still getting away with capitation charges and unreasonable fee hikes,” Anubha Sahai, President, Parents of Private Schools of Maharashtra (POPSOM) said.
Protests by teachers across the State
One of the major protests in the education sector was that of the teachers at the Zilla Parishad schools across Maharashtra. The teachers, irked over the load of the digitisation work imposed upon them, protested against the government. “We are not against digitisation, however, we do not have an efficient infrastructure to carry out all the procedures online, without any hassles. Our teachers, at times, need to go out of the village to update the SARAL database, as we don’t have electricity or proper Internet connectivity at our schools,” Raosaheb Avare, Founder President, Maharashtra State Secondary and Higher Secondary School Principals Joint Association said.
Another issue raised by the protesting teachers was the GR that stated that in order to get senior or select salary grade, the school and students’ performances will also be taken into account.
The Education Minister later clarified that the audit would be conducted to check the amount of online work that the teachers have to do at the schools, also making the controversial statement, “I am the minister for education, I am not the minister for teachers.”
‘Black Day’ by private schools
More than one lakh schools across the country, including around 300 in the city, observed ‘Black Day’ on October 12 against the unnecessary and increasing interference of government in the functioning of these schools.
Speaking about the issue, Amit Chandra, Secretary, National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA) said, “Right from the opening of schools, to departing education, the government interferes in each and everything.
Also, the government has hastily drafted safety guidelines and expects us to implement them immediately without thinking about the budget provision, cost and collaboration. What we are simply saying is that what distinguishes private schools from government schools is the autonomy. If the entire autonomy is taken, the school management wouldn’t be left with any authority to make the decision. It’s some kind of nationalisation of the private schools.”
RTE still troublesome?
Another issue pressed by these schools was regarding RTE admissions. Jagruti Dharmadhikari, President, IESA, earlier said, “The government doesn’t allow us to give admissions to regular students even if the RTE seats are vacant after all the rounds of admissions.”