Saturday, 5 September 2015

Elementary Education in Uttar Pradesh and the helpless Child

It is a pure coincidence that I write this post on Teachers Day.Those of you  who have not yet read the judgement of Hon'ble High Court   ,Allahabad  ,delivered on 18th August , 2015  ,should read it .For reference , this judgement was delivered by Hon'ble  Justice Sudhir Agarwal    in  ten  writ petitions, with lead case of Writ -A No-57476 of 2013  ,Shiv Kumar Pathak and 11 Others  versus State of U.P. and 3 Others.The  Judgement was reserved on 25.05.2015 and was delivered on 18.08.2015. If you don't have time to read the 35 pages long judgement , you  may read only the last 5 pages , starting from para 79.
PARA 90 :
"Therefore ,the Chief Secretary, U.P. Government  is directed to take appropriate action  in the matter  in consultation with other Officials , responsible in this regard, to ensure that the children /wards of Government servants,semi-Government  servants , local bodies , representatives of people, judiciary and all such persons  who receive any perk, benefit or salary  etc. from state exchequer or public fund , send their child/children/wards who are  in age of receiving  primary education , to Primary  Schools run by Board.He shall also ensure  to make penal provisions for those who violate this condition, for example , if a child is sent to  a Primary  School not maintained by  Board , the amount of fee etc.  paid in such privately managed  Primary School , an equal amount  shall be deposited  in the Government  funds, every month, so long as such education  in other kind of Primary  School is continued.This amount collected can be utilised  for betterment of  schools of Board.Besides such person ,if in service , should also be made to suffer other benefits  like increment,promotional avenues  for certain period, as the case may be.This is only illustrative .The appropriate  provisions can be made  by Government  so as to ensure that  ward(s)/child /children of persons , as detailed above , are compelled necessarily to receive primary education in  the Primary Schools run by the Board."
  On the face of it , it is an unusual order.Moreover, the writ petitions were  about  recruitment  to the posts of  Assistant teachers in basic schools , not only on the basis of  academic qualification , but also giving weightage to the scores obtained by candidates in  Teachers Eligibility Test (TET).While giving judgement  on the issues  prayed for in the writ  petitions , the  Court  thought it fit to  make a few  additional observations and orders:" However, before parting , this Court finds  something necessary to be said with respect to primary education in the State and shabby manner  it is being dealt with  by the Department  and Officers responsible therefor which has resulted in  multiple litigation also."
      The Court observed that in  November 2013,2.70 lacs posts of  Assistant  Teachers  in Primary Schools run by Board were lying vacant .This was    due to huge litigation , which was due to   "unmindful,irregular and casual approach of officials  responsible for managing such recruitment , lack of accountability as well as sincerity.Unmindful and casual legislation  by way of frequent amendment of Rules has worsened the situation .
          The Court has categorised the  Primary Schools in three  categories.These are Elite Schools, Semi-Elite Schools and  Common-men's Schools .It is the third category of schools which are run and managed by the Board(Basic Shiksha Parishad).Numbering about 1.25  lacs,these schools lack infrastructure , drinking water ,toilets ,and even class rooms.At many places , buildings are in dilapidated conditions.Court has observed that  "there is  no real involvement of administration  with these schools.. . . The  public administration  therefore has no  actual indulgence to see functioning and requirements of these schools.These schools have become a mode of earning political mileage instead of  real catering to its need.  'These schools  are victim of  highest level of misappropriation, maladministration and widespread corruption."
                                 " A competition is going on  for political reasons  to make lacs of vacancies  available in  Primary Schools as a source  to create committed voters  by appointing persons,if not illiterate, but not really competent to teach children in Primary School.....A persistent  effort is going on  now to absorb these  persons (Shisha  Mitras, Anganbari Karyakartris) as Teachers in Primary Schools run by the Board.,if necessary , even by frequent amendments  in Rules , without caring  but compromising with standard."
                         "It  is lack of accountability and casual approach on the part of  officials of  Basic Education Department  that mindless , negligent , casual amendments in Rules , defective Government  Orders have been issued from  time to time  creating cause for  multifarious litigations  resulting not only delay in appointment of  Primary Teachers  but also a very heavy pressure  on this Court also."
                        Let us try to summarise:
1.The condition of Primary Schools of Board  is bad(Shabby) due to a large number of vacancies of teachers as well as due to poor infrastructure.
2.An effort is being made "for political reasons " to recruit  non-qualified persons as teachers , by  frequent amendment in Rules.The legislation  in this regard is unmindful and casual.
3..There is   no involvement  and seriousness   of the administration  with these schools.
4.There is a lack of accountability on the part of the officials of the Basic Education Department.They are casual ,mindless  and negligent in  amendment of rules and in issuing defective Government Orders.
        I had the chance to work  as Principal Secretary of Basic Education of U.P.  in 2008 for 90 days  , and I  cannot agree more  with the above summary of the Court's  observations .But the remedy suggested  in para 90 of the judgement quoted above , is   not really a solution to the four very serious points  listed in the above summary. Most of the people , Ministers , Legislators , Bureaucrats  influential in decision - making are well past the  age and stage   when their children  go to Primary Schools.So, the remedy suggested is not likely to be effective.
                      The  real remedy lies in accountable and responsible governance in U.P., strict control on corruption , rising above the political interests in appointments of teachers and other officials and ensuring that appointments are made impartially and strictly on merit.This in turn requires  revamp and cleansing of Recruitment Boards. I know , in Uttar Pradesh , this is just a wish list , but I was encouraged to put across this list , thanks to Hon'ble High Court of Allahabad.I hope ,this Judgement will  generate a healthy debate and meaningful decisions .