PUCL Bulletin, November 2001

Right to Equality of Opportunity:
Plight of Government Schools: Who is Responsible?
-- By Mahi Pal Singh

In the beginning of June every year when the results of the Central Board of Secondary Education (C.B.S.E.) are declared, an inevitable exercise of comparison between government and public schools takes place, and the Delhi government, its Education Minister and the Directorate of Education announces schemes to improve the lot of government - owned schools. For a few weeks education officers, who are in charge of the 28 Zones into which Delhi Schools have been divided, start visiting schools. Meetings are held and reports are submitted, and after some fanfare everything again comes to its ever beaten path 'normalcy' which is another name for apathy, negligence and disinterestedness on the part of the Department of Education and also the Government of Delhi, which has too many and more important duties to perform than to look after the education of poor people of resettlement colonies and Jhuggi clusters and petty private and government employees who cannot dream of sending their children to public (i.e. private schools) schools, whose ever-increasing demands of higher fees, building fund and donations even middle class people are finding difficult to meet.

Education has remained the most neglected of subjects by central and state governments in our country even after attaining political independence in 1947.

That even the founding fathers of our Constitution did not assign to it the place of primacy it deserved is clear from the fact that they did not make right to education a fundamental right guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, and they put it in Article 45, under Part IV of the Constitution which is non-enforceable as it is entitled as the 'Directive Principles of State Policy'. But even the framers of the Constitution had made it obligatory for future governments to keep it in mind while framing their policies and to achieve the aim within a time frame of ten years. But these governments did not care to keep the Directive Principles in mind and never fulfilled their duty to provide 'free and compulsory education' to all children 'until they complete the age of fourteen' as envisaged under Article 45. This is in spite of the fact that the Preamble to the Constitution of India promised 'to secure to all its citizens', 'Justice - Social, Economic, and Political and also 'Equality of status and of opportunity' and our leaders are never tired of claiming our country as a 'Socialist', to quote the Preamble again and 'welfare state'. Successive governments remained guilty of' criminal negligence to their duty towards the people of India ever since the adoption to the Constitution on November 26, 1949 by the Constituent Assembly, more so after 1993 when the Supreme Court of India declared the right to education, as granted under Article 45, a fundamental human right of every child in the country.

As two sets of schools developed in the country from the very beginning - public schools and government schools - the former for the wealthy elite and the latter for the toiling masses of the country, inequality in society became more pronounced -- the development of two categories of citizens, one of the rulers and the other of the ruled. The neo-rich, who reaped the fruits provided by the new culture of governance, which turned the rich into richer, and the corrupt into powerful, making a mockery of 'equality of status and of opportunity', gave public schools every chance to flourish and the government schools to deteriorate further as the children of the new class of rulers did not go to this latter category of schools. As a result these schools were treated as an obligatory burden on the governments, because of the democratic pattern of our constitution, to somehow exist for the sake of form only. It is not surprising, therefore, that the lot that these schools turn out every year forms the working class of the country, which children of poor parents and those belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were doing even without them. Government apathy towards government schools, public craze for public school education and patronage to public schools by politicians, the ruling class, and the rich and well-to-do middle class leaves government schools a neglected lot. They are dumping grounds for children who have no better place to go. Most of these schools still lack basic amenities.

They are manned by uninspired teachers, frustrated on many counts. There are teachers who joined as Trained Graduate Teachers after doing their Ph.Ds. and have retired or died without any promotion because the promotion rules are arbitrary, biased and irrational. A Science or General T.G.T., for example, can get promotion as a Lecturer/ Post Graduate Teacher (P.G. T.) in any subject after doing an M.A. in that subject like History, Political Science, Economics, Sociology, Commerce, Accountancy, Geography, Maths., Chemistry, Physics, Biology and many more subjects including English even if that teacher studied that subject for the first time at post graduate level, and never taught that subject to students as a T.G. T. whereas Language Teachers/ T.G.Ts. in Hindi, Sanskrit, Punjabi etc. can not be promoted, except in that language, even though such teachers have been teaching that subject in the school along with their language or whol1y because of the non-availability of the concerned teachers.

The Directorate of Education acts so arbitrarily that it did not promote eligible Language Teachers in other subjects, and other teachers in languages, even though recruitment rules for Lecturers/P.G.Ts. were amended on 26.2.1996, which made it possible, and remained in force till 4.11.1999 when they were re-amended without being implemented for a day. Such things deny the guidance of teachers experienced in the teaching of, and capable of teaching, a particular subject to the students, whereas incapable and inexperienced teachers are thrust upon the helpless students. A Hindi P.G.T., one Ram Kishan Ronima, who had been teaching English for the last 17 years, was not promoted as Lecturer in English, and filed an O.A. in the Central Administrative Tribunal (C.A.T.), Principal Bench which directed on 9.8.2000 that he should be promoted as Lecturer in English. There are still thousands of such teachers in Delhi schools. Then, there are absolutely no promotional avenues for thousands of Yoga Teachers, Librarians, Educational and Vocational Guidance Counselors and Lab.Asstts. The result is that the Principal Bench of CAT has the highest number of cases pertaining to teachers of the Directorate of Education, Delhi because the Directorate has no time to listen to their problems. Hundreds of such teachers get more worried about redressing their grievances through the CAT instead of attending to their duties towards the students. What justice can such frustrated teachers do to the education of those entrusted to their care?

Then there are hundreds of contract teachers working in these schools, including Kashmiri migrants. The sword of retrenchment always hangs over their heads. They are neither regularized nor regular postings done in their places. On the one hand they are being exploited as they are not paid normal salaries, and on the other they block the promotions and appointments of those who have been in the queue for long periods of waiting. And what should students do in case even such teachers are not posted to their schools for years together? To cite just one example, Govt. Boys Sr. Sec. School, Timarpur just under the nose of the Directorate of Education has been without the Commerce and Accountancy P.G.Ts. for the last four years and the school Parent Teacher Association and the Principal have written to the Deputy Director of Education (North District) and the Directorate of Education so many times and the students have been appearing at the CBSE examinations year after year without having been taught a single word in these two subjects. Who is to blame if they fail to produce a result that should satisfy the officers of the Education Department and the Govt. of NCT of Delhi? Could it have happened in a public school? Even the Times of India published an interview of the Principal once in which he narrated everything, but even that did not break the slumber of the officials.

And the Hon'ble Minister of Education, Govt. of Delhi has been issuing six-monthly statements that there are no vacancies in the schools whereas the Govt. of NCT of Delhi admitted before a division bench comprising Justice Anil Dev Singh and Justice O.P. Dwivedi of Delhi High Court, in the PIL filed by advocate Ashok Aggarwal on behalf on Social Jurists, on 19.6.2001 that as many as 4000 posts of various categories were lying vacant in government and MCD schools including 730 of P.G.Ts, 342 of Assistant Teachers, 454 of other category of teachers, 307 posts of Vice-Principals, and 229 posts of Principals as on December 31, 2000 (As reported in the Times of India dated 20.6.2001). So much for the concern of the politicians and high officials of the Directorate of Education for the education of those going to government schools, whether primary or senior secondary schools.

Still it is only the teachers who are blamed for poor results in government schools.

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