A recent memorandum of understanding (MoU) inked by Pune Municipal Corporation’s education board with a Gujarat-based NGO has become a bone of contention between the civic body and its employees.
The agreement says that Deepak Foundation will look after 390 Balwadis (kindergartens) of the education board. But teachers and PMC workers union are strongly opposing this MoU, claiming this is a step towards initiation of privatisation in city’s government schools. On the other hand the board and representatives of Deepak Foundation have rubbished the charge.
Despite the resistance, the project has already kicked off at 51 Balwadis in Hadapsar and Vishrambag.
“Why does the education board need to appoint an NGO for this task when the Balwadi teachers have been looking after schools efficiently for the past many years? This is nothing but commencement of privatisation in government schools,” alleged Mukta Manohar, general secretary of Pune Mahanagarpalika Kamgar Union (PMKU).
Incidentally, the board had planned to work with Deepak Foundation in the last academic year only. But the plan was postponed following sharp criticism from the union.
Rejecting PMKU’s charges, education board head Shivaji Daundkar said, “The NGO is providing its service absolutely free of cost. The main motive is to make our system competent at the entry level itself.”
“After last year’s opposition, we have diluted many proposed norms while framing the MoU,” he added.
A senior functionary at the foundation from the city, on the condition of anonymity, maintained that the organisation will look after the Balwadis for a limited period only.
“We have signed an MoU with PMC education board for a period of three years. There are lots of misunderstandings, like we are going to supervise all these schools and ultimately bring in privatisation. Our institute has already done such projects in Baroda and this is the first time we are starting work in Maharashtra. The MoU comprises capacity building, community participation, health checkup of children and coordinating with teachers. Our 30-member team will partake in this project. There are no financial transactions involved,” he said.
To temper the disagreement, the education board will soon arrange a joint meeting with PMC commissioner Mahesh Pathak, in which members of PMKU, Deepak Foundation and board officials will participate.
“The other NGOs, which run their projects in our Balwadis or education board schools, never interfere in the administration. But this is the first time that the education board is appointing an NGO for the supervision of Balwadis. If board wants to assign supervisors, many teachers here can easily handle this important responsibility,” reacted a Balwadi teacher on the condition of anonymity.
>> 390: Total number of PMC education board Balwadis in the city
>> 20,000: No of children enrolled in these Balwadis
>> 1,500: No of teachers and non-teaching staff in Balwadis