Teachers say the current fear and concerns on campuses are about the daily diktats and “polite fatwas” being issued by the Centre, which started on Teachers’ Day when schools were asked to watch Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address live and the more recent “swachh Bharat” campaign.
On the latter, the University Grants Commission (UGC), through a circular, has asked educational institutions to launch the cleanliness campaign in their campuses on October 2 to mark the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
“This has never happened in the past. This is wrong and I strongly protest against it. The government can’t impose itself. If a circular comes from UGC, it becomes binding and not following it may or may not impact the development grants given to colleges by UGC. If the government has its political agenda, they should implement it in a proper way and not force it through official channels,” said TISS professor and Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) national fellow S Bhowmik.
Sociology professor at Mumbai University, B V Bhosale, said the initiatives were good, but these circulars or announcements, which started on Teachers’ Day in schools and continued to the cleanliness programme, were becoming binding for educational institutions. “As a university, we look for independent and free thinking. Also, the central or state government must have faith in the teaching fraternity and understand that they know their responsibilities. As far as the Maharashtra Assembly polls are concerned, I don’t see any political party having education as a priority in their agenda. The focus presently is on the numbers and power game and how many seats each party can win,” said Bhosale.
Many others said that such moves were mere “tokenism” and the central and state governments need to focus on the real problems that are plaguing the education sector, including lack of quality faculty, non-implementation of the Right to Education Act, lack of encouragement and funds to do research and even errors in textbooks, among others.
“There is no harm if universities, colleges or schools want to observe certain days in their own ways. But when the Centre or UGC issue a circular, it becomes tokenism and does not help in the long run. There are other major issues in the higher education sector. There is no need for the Centre to issue notifications. They should instead concentrate on major problems,” said Madhu Paranjape, general secretary, Bombay University and College Teachers’ Union (BUCTU).
Rohit Bhat, principal of Children’s Academy, Kandivali, however, said that while such circulars were sent previously also, there is now a greater feeling that it has to be enforced. “The sense of urgency is more now. We have taken up the swachh bharat campaign for the entire month now in our school because there is sense in what the Prime Minister is saying,” he said.