Voter registration drive executed at students' cost

Published: 31 October, 2012 07:33 IST | Priyankka Deshpande |

ECI appoints schoolteachers for month-long drive, forcing them to give forms and answer queries while taking class

Politics seems to have forced education into the list of no-so-important matters in the district and the voters’ registration drive, which began on October 1 and concluded yesterday, put students of several government-aided schools on the losing end. The decision of the Election Commission of India to appoint schoolteachers to distribute forms for the voter’s registration drive has taken a toll on academic activities at schools in the district.

According to figures, around 1,000 teachers from all government-aided school in the city were deployed for the registration drive, contrary to what the District Deputy Election Officer claims. The part that defies logic is that the classrooms doubled up as centres for the general public to collect forms and besides distributing forms and answering queries and checking whether all the necessary documents were being attached with forms that were being submitted, the teachers had to conduct classes simultaneously.

Side effect: A teacher hands over a registration form right in the middle of an ongoing period at a civic-run school in Fatima Nagar. Pic/Krunal Gosavi

Taking note of the students being put at a loss, members of the education board passed a resolution to submit an appeal to the chief minister requesting that teachers be exempted from census and election related duties.

A visit to some schools in the city revealed that teachers were juggling between answering queries, distributing forms and checking documents being submitted, to teaching their students at the same time.

A teacher of Krantiveer Vasudev Balwant Phadake Primary School located at Fatima Nagar, said on condition of anonymity that she was relieved that she was finally free from duty, as the voter’s registration drive was finally over.

“We have barely been getting time to take classes as we have to also participate in the drive during school hours. I teach Std I students and could not even assign them any group activities to keep them engaged. They are quite young and I need to personally look after them,” she said.

A teacher from Mahadji Shinde Primary School at Wanowrie said that it was almost impossible for her to manage her teaching duties and distribute voter’s registration forms at the same time. She added that apart from carrying out these duties on weekdays, the teachers were also required to continue on Sundays as well.

“I shifted the students to another classroom as they were getting disturbed by the constant flow of visitors seeking to collect forms and making enquiries. Since the past month, I have been unable to give my student enough time and this will certainly affect their studies,” said the teacher on condition of anonymity.

The chairman of the PMC Education Board, Pradeep Dhumal said that the members of the board had passed a resolution to submit an appeal to the chief minister and education minister requesting that teachers be exempted from election and census duties.

He added that currently, the middle semester exam is going on in schools and though the teachers have already covered the syllabus for the exam, putting in duty for the drive has still affected the students and their daily academic activities.

“We are hoping that the state administration would take a positive step in this regard,” Dhumal said. Reacting to the criticism, District Deputy Election Officer Apurva Wankhede said, “Governmental institutions and NGOs must participate in election-related procedures and teachers are not exempt. It is mandatory to take part in the democratic process when needed,” said Wankhede.”

But she denied that all teachers in these schools have been appointed for this drive. “We have appointed only one designated officer per school, which is normally the headmaster or headmistress of the school,” Wankhede said. 

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