This September 5 is set to be the longest Teachers’ Day ever — and teachers will have very little to do with it.
For Prime Minister Narendra Modi to celebrate 105 minutes of the day as he wants to, state governments and schools are at work, organising the logistics, generator sets, TVs, radios, etc.
But with chief ministers too now seeking to be seen and heard, what is normally a day of break from regular classes is set to become a long lesson in competitive lecturing for children, stretching way past school hours.
While the union HRD Ministry has sought to clarify that it had only asked state education secretaries to “facilitate” students watching the live telecast of the PM’s Teachers’ Day engagement from 3 pm to 4.45 pm, and that it was never supposed to be “mandatory”, few, including private schools, are taking chances.
Not when in several states there is talk of notices having been circulated, warning that details of attendance in schools on that day will have to be presented.
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Capital Delhi, which is believed to have sparked the fears of “mandatory attendance”, had a directive that said, “Any laxity in arrangements shall be viewed seriously.”
In Gujarat, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel has decided to have her own two-hour session in the morning, followed by Modi’s later. The state is already celebrating a Knowledge Week, a first-time initiative. Attendance details have to be sent the same evening.
In Haryana, Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, still smarting from having been hooted at a Modi function, will be addressing students for the first time on Teachers’ Day.
His programme will also precede the PM’s. A string of programmes is planned to keep the children entertained in between the two shows.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Madhya Pradesh has his own plans for the day, plus the state government has decided that September 5 will end with a roll call for children and teachers. That is to ensure nobody skips the PM’s speech.
The Akhilesh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh will be riding on the laptops it gifted as part of its Class XII pass scheme to show the Modi function — a rare example of bonhomie between the two governments.
Uttarakhand wants homes with TVs to chip in, or it will just arrange for students to go to those homes. At the end of the day, district-level education officials have to communicate to the state Director General, Education, the number of students who watched the PM’s programme in their areas.
Chhattisgarh too expects owners of homes with TV sets in remote areas to step up to the plate. Many of the state’s schools are in tribal areas without electricity. For probably the first time, these schools will have TVs and radios, even if for only 105 minutes.
In Kerala, the biggest worry is that schools close at noon on September 5 for a week-long Onam break. How they will keep the children engaged until 3 pm is the biggest worry for schools.
The Northeastern states are worried about areas where night falls early, for example in Hayuliang in Arunachal Pradesh’s Anjaw district, where the sun sets at 4.15 pm — half an hour before Modi decides to call it a day.
West Bengal, though, isn’t tearing out any hairs. “One fine morning you send an order and tell us it has to be carried out in three days’ time. It is not done,” Education Minister Partha Chatterjee said, adding the state has its own plans.
The principal of a leading CBSE school in Chennai, who did not want to be identified, was blunt. “Promoting one person is not a good practice. On Teachers’ Day, let us not lie to the children that everything is perfect in the country and everything will be taken care of by the PM. Schools need not telecast a PM’s speech…we have better things to do. After all, education is about liberating our students,” he said.