Why did government ask 7,000 schools to shut down?
The schools have fallen short of the mandated 1 acre in urban areas, but argue that they should be allowed to function as they cater to underprivileged kids at an affordable rate
Tens of thousands of children could no longer have a school at the end of the summer vacations, as the government has asked 7,000 schools across the state to shut down for not possessing enough land. These are all small schools run by private trusts, and most of the students enrolled are underprivileged kids. The institutes have now appealed to the state education minister on the matter.
The schools have formed an organisation called ‘Unrecognised Schools Association’ to persuade the government to reconsider its decision.
A Government Resolution (GR) in 2013 decreed that all schools in urban areas must be sized at 1 acre, while schools in rural areas possess 2 acres. After a review, the schools were given notice in 2015, by way of newspaper adverts. They were sent the final notice on April 4, and were given a week to shut down or face action, which can range from a lumpsum fine of R1 lakh, to R10,000 per day of violation or even criminal action for running an educational institution without approval.
However, the school managements argued that they are small-sized operations — with about 100 students each — providing quality education at an affordable rate to mostly underprivileged children. Most of them are English medium schools, so if the schools are not allowed to reopen, the kids will be forced to move to civic schools and lose out on English medium education. Furthermore, they also complain that several teachers working at these schools will be out of jobs because of this decision.
The schools have now come together, with support from teachers and parents, and formed an organisation called ‘Unrecognised Schools Association’ to persuade the government to reconsider its decision. They have also written to the state education minister, Vinod Tawde with their arguments.
Leena Girap, a teacher at the Star English High School in Diva, said, "It is very difficult to acquire 1 acre of land in this city. Moreover, these are not profit-making institutions. All are very small schools catering to a niche section of the society in the slum areas or children coming from the lower strata of society. We are providing English medium schooling at an affordable rate. Considering the work that we are doing, we should be exempted from the land requirement parameter."
The schools are currently hanging in uncertainty — although they have shut down, this has coincided with the summer break, so students have not lost any time in class. However, if the situation continues till June, the students will have to scramble to find a functioning school for the upcoming academic year.
Principal of Ren Xavier school, Geeta Gautam said, "My school was formed in 2010, following my father’s dream to provide good education to underprivileged children. I have been working on acquiring approval from the government since then. But each time, it has delayed for some or the other reason. Since 2013, the new land requirement has brought more obstacles. When we ask the authorities to take the children into consideration, we are told to shift them to nearby schools. Why should we? If our teaching quality is bad, the government has all the right to take action, but land is not such an important factor for the children are studying in our school."
The state director of primary education, Mahavir Mane told mid-day, "Regulations are prepared in order to ensure quality education to all children. The land requirement is part of it, so that a school can provide holistic education to all. We certainly consider students and, in such cases, the students will be accommodated in nearby schools. Parents need not worry about their education."
"If the school does not open in June, we will have no option but to admit my daughter in a civic school because by then all other school admissions will be over. As parents we have no problem with our current school. I do not understand the mandate for 1-acre land. Our children are studying in a nice English medium school, that is more than enough for us," said Pushpa Ambhire, who works as domestic help, while her husband does a few odd jobs. They send their children to Rainbow school.