All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) condemns the move of Rajasthan government to close 17,000 government schools in the state under garb of merger and rationalisation. The justification offered by the state government that the step is being taken due to low enrolment of students in these schools is misleading and cynical. It betrays complete apathy of the present regime to actual conditions of government schools and their students coming mostly from disadvantaged sections. Enrolment in government schools has come down due to the fact that students and their parents/guardians are forced to migrate to profit-mongering and often low-grade private schools because the government school system has been systematically downgraded by the state government over the last two decades and more by a series of anti-education and anti-child policies. The move of Rajasthan government is not in benefit of the students or the government schools at all but only in benefit of the profit-hungry private school sector.
Closure of government educational institutions most adversely affects children of disadvantaged sections including girls, dalits, minorities and the disabled. Instead of rectifying the misconceived policy framework, that is increasingly jeopardising the educational rights of these already disadvantaged sections, the state government is altogether abdicating its Constitutional obligation of providing equitable and fully-free education to every child without discrimination and in doing so it is also violating the Right to Education Act, 2009.
AIFRTE would like to point out that what is happening in Rajasthan is not an isolated phenomenon. Government schools are facing a systematic policy assault across the country. In name of merger, rationalisation and other such pretentions, governments schools are being closed or auctioned to private players in Maharashtra (more than 13,000 schools), Karnataka (more than 15,000 schools), Andhra Pradesh (more than 7000 schools), Uttarakhand (more than 2200 schools), New Delhi (55 schools), Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and many other states. Closure of government schools across the country on such a vast scale is an outcome of a long-drawn withdrawal and policy-led negligence by successive governments (at the centre and states). The crisis of government school system has been particularly exacerbated by the diktats of ‘Structural Adjustment Policy’ imposed by World Bank since economic reforms of 1990s. In the last nearly two and half decades, government school system has been systematically starved of funds, teachers, and infrastructure except a handful of Central Schools, Navodaya Vidyalayas and elite schools run by state-governments. This has been done with a clear intent of discrediting and ultimately destroying the government school system altogether so that an unbridled market for private schools is established. It is ironical that instead of reversing this trend and strengthening the government school system, the much hyped but misconceived Right to Education Act, 2009 has only sped up this decline by legitimising multi-layered school system and profit-oriented private schools.
AIFRTE appeals all pro-people organisations, activists and individuals to join hand against this assault on government schools and educational rights of our children and youth. At the same time, we demand the Rajasthan government to,
(i) Immediately withdraw its anti-education decision,
(ii) Upgrade all existing government schools of the state, minimum to the standards of Central Schools (in terms of educational infrastructure and other norms) within a time-bound schedule, and
(iii) Ensure that no child in the state is deprived of education on any ground whatsoever or is forced to pay money in any form for getting education either in government or in private school.
We hope that a government which rules in name of our Constitution lives up to this minimum Constitutional mandate and proves its commitment towards the people by implementing these demands.
Dr. Meher Engineer, West Bengal, Chairperson, AIFRTE;
Ex-President,Indian Academy of Social Science; Kolkata
Prof. Wasi Ahmed, Bihar, Former Joint Secretary, AIFUCTO; Patna
Sri Prabhakar Arade, Maharashtra, President, AIFETO; Kolhapur
Prof. G. Haragopal, Andhra Pradesh, National Fellow, ICSSR; TISS, Hyderabad
Prof. Madhu Prasad, Delhi, Formerly Dept. of Philosophy, Zakir Husain College, Delhi University
Prof. Anil Sadgopal, Madhya Pradesh, Former Dean, Faculty of Education, Delhi University; Bhopal
Prof. K. M. Shrimali, Delhi, Formerly Dept. of History, Delhi University
Dr. Anand Teltumbde, West Bengal, Professor of Management, IIT, Kharagpur
Author-Lokesh Malti Prakash