Teachers raise protest after government order indicates small schools may be shut down

Days after the state education department sought data on the process of Samayojan (adjustment of teachers) and what action has been taken to shut schools with fewer than 20 students, several teachers’ organizations spoke out in protest while the MLC from Mumbai Teachers constituency demanded action against the official who issued the order.

“Already there is an inadequacy of subject-wise teachers in government schools. Due to the delayed and inappropriate Samayojan process, teacher appointments have been pending for many years. In such a situation, recommending closing down of schools is a violation of the Right To Education (RTE) Act,” said Kapil Patil, MLC from Mumbai Teachers constituency, on Sunday.

In a letter to the commissioner and director of education, dated September 21, the state government had sought details on the process of Samayojan as well as data on schools with fewer than 20 students, to be submitted to the finance department. It had also stated that making teachers’ appointments for a total of 67,755 vacant posts in zilla parishad schools will be a financial burden on the government.

Teachers believe the upcoming Samayojan process will aim to rectify this by shutting down schools with fewer than 20 students and reassigning their teaching staff to larger schools with vacant posts.

In a letter to Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Saturday, the Maharashtra Rajya Prathamik Shikshak Samiti — the primary teachers’ organization from zilla parishad schools — states, “This is very dangerous for the public education sector if the government is thinking of closing down schools because it is becoming a financial burden to fill vacant posts of teachers. The expenditure on the salary of teachers is an indirect investment towards development of society. Comparing that with administrative expenditure is inappropriate and directly harmful to the quality of education in government-run schools.”

Teachers say most schools with fewer than 20 students are located in hilly or inaccessible areas and if closed, their students may be shut out of the mainstream education system. Teachers say such schools are spread across the state in almost all districts.

Vijay Kombe, a zilla parishad teacher from Vardha and secretary of the Maharashtra Rajya Prathamik Shikshak Samiti, said, “In Karanja taluka of Wardha, there are six such schools with fewer than 20 enrolled students. These schools are in Panjara Bungla, Khairidharan, Yenidodaka, Ranwadi, Narsingpur, Nagalwadi — all surrounded by jungle. If these schools are closed, these children will be deprived out education as the remaining nearest schools will be at least 3-4 km away, and daily commute is not an option with restriction on transport modes. In districts like Akola, Buldhana and Satara, schools with fewer than 20 students are in areas with heavy water bodies separating them from major towns and cities.”

Subhash More from Shikshak Bharati, a teachers’ organization, said on Sunday, “Lack of subject teachers is impacting the quality of education in government schools. There are no teachers for core subjects like science and mathematics, let alone art and sports. Thousands of non-teaching staff posts are vacant, too, which are imperative to run a school.”

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