In an attempt to put the controversy around Prime Minister Narendra Modi's planned Teachers' Day speech to rest, Human Resource Development Minister, Smriti Irani said on Monday that the interaction was not mandatory, and schools and students could choose to not to participate. She also urged others not to politicise the event, but strong partisan lines seem to have divided schools across Pune, affecting their decision to screen the speech or not.
The Shankarrao More Vidyalaya in Erandawne is one of the schools that won't screen the PM's speech today
There is a clear demarcation in the preparations schools have made for the live telecast of the PM's first interaction with school students across the country, depending on their association with different political parties or ideologies, be it Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Shiv Sena or the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). In some schools, preparations were on in full swing, while in others, the speech didn't even find a mention.
At the Rajashri Shivaray Pratishthan High School, established and managed by senior Shiv Sena leader, Shashikant Sutar, preparations had begun from Tuesday itself. "We issued circulars intimating students and staff about the PM's speech scheduled to be telecast in the afternoon today. Our school has a television set, but to ensure all 700 students in the school could witness the PM's thoughts, we plan to place a big projector in our assembly hall," said Sandhya Deshpande, school principal.
While Sandhya Deshpande, the principal of Rajashri Shivray Pratishthan School plans to install a projector to ensure all 700 students have a clear view of the telecast; (right) Milind Naik, the principal of Jnyana Prabodhini Prashala is going one step ahead and recording the speech, so students who miss the live telecast can watch it later
The situation couldn't be more different at the nearby Shankarro More Vidyalaya (under Bharati Vidyapeeth), established by senior Congress leader and state Forest Minister Patangrao Kadam. The school principal, K H Patil said, "Till now, the school has not received any specific instructions or notification from the government to make arrangements for the PM's Teachers' Day address. Also, the school doesn't have a television. If we receive any notification, we will make arrangements."
One of the students' parents waiting outside the school said, "I read about the PM's proposed speech in newspapers, but here it seems that the school is quite indifferent."
The speech is just as unlikely to be screened at the Pune Jilha Prathamik Shikshak Sangh High School, which has NCP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on its governing body. "See our school runs in the morning shift. Hence for us it is difficult to ask students to come back to the school in the afternoon for the speech. We can ask students to view it on the television at home," Nilima Khonde, the school principal said of the telecast which is scheduled between 3 pm and 4.45 pm today.
The Jnyana Prabodhini Prashala (JPP) in Sadashiv Peth organised a pre-planned lecture series on Teachers' Day. Interestingly though, the school authorities intend to ensure that all 480 students will get to watch the telecast, whether it is live, or a recorded version.
"Despite the pre-planned lectures we are making sure that at least couple of classes witness live speech of PM and will arrange for a recorded version for the remaining students. Our school welcomes Modi's initiative of reaching out to school children," Milind Naik, the JPP principal said.
Rubbishing some of the media reports last week about a circular issued by the CBSE administration asking schools to make the speech mandatory, Naik said, "I have gone through the CBSE circular. It has not used the word mandatory. Rather schools have the freedom to make arrangements according to their convenience."
Some parents and education activists have welcomed Modi's initiative to interact with students. Deepti Kulkarni, whose son is a std I student at a reputed English medium school at Sinhgad Road, said, "I don't know how much my son will be able to grasp from the PM's speech which he will probably deliver in Hindi. But I think the knowledge children will feel really special knowing that that the PM of India is interacting with them. Normally the school runs in the morning shift, but I think the school should make special arrangements."
City-based education activist, Vivek Velankar said, "There is no need to politicise the PM's speech. Those who want to criticise it have all the right to go ahead. But they should have the patience to do it after his address. If Japanese school students can listen to Modi's views, why can't our children?"
"For the first time, a PM wants to connect with school children. In his special address, he might even change perspectives in the education system," said another activist, Matin Mujawar.