Writers, artists, professors come out on street: ‘Give our kids their school back’

The protesters are accusing the school management of uprooting their children from a “place they loved and cherished” and causing them massive “emotional trauma”.

Written by Ankita Dwivedi Johri | New Delhi | Updated: July 16, 2015 10:00 am
Mirambika school, Mirambika protests, Mirambika Free Progress School, Mirambika school students, Sri Aurobindo Education Society, India latest news Parents and Mirambika students demonstrate on Tuesday night. (Source: Tashi Tobgyal)

There is no angry sloganeering, no outburst in unparliamentary language, no police, not even a barricade. Instead, there are modern tents, chairs, food and water supplies and even a mosquito repellent spray for the protesters. While it is a far cry from the street demonstration one seen so often, it is still a dharna against a “stubborn” management.

Some 30 parents of students of Mirambika Free Progress School have been camping 24×7 outside its premises in the heart of south Delhi for a week, questioning the management’s decision of shifting their wards to an “under-construction” building after the summer break. The school was vacated for the construction of an engineering college in the area.

“This is not why we put our kids here. This is not in line with the ecosystem for progressive education that was promised to us,” says Ajay Jugran, a lawyer.

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The protesters, mostly writers, artists, journalists, lawyers and professors, are accusing the school management of uprooting their children from a “place they loved and cherished” and causing them massive “emotional trauma”.

Mirambika, which has 151 students and 49 teachers today, was started by the Sri Aurobindo Education Society in 1981. It has no structured syllabus, no uniforms, teachers who are referred to as diya (a blended form of didi and bhaiya) who work on a voluntary basis with no salary, and classes that are not numbered 1 to 10 but have names such as ‘Courage’ and ‘Endurance’.

“It was this vision of integrated and spiritual learning that prompted us to put our children here, not what is being offered now,” says Jugran.

On April 13-14, the students had been shifted to Aurobindo Ashram from the original school building. The parents say this was done “overnight” but parent representative Vikrant Abrol, a former student of the school, argues that “parents were told by the management about the need to shift because the land was allotted by Delhi Development Authority for a college”.

On May 2, some parents moved Delhi High Court, which stayed the construction of the college on May 6. On May 26, 58 parents and 39 teachers filed an intervening application supporting Aurobindo Society’s plans. But on May 31, eight of these parents asked for their names to be removed, accusing the management of “misleading” them, “They come from educated backgrounds, didn’t they read the document?” says one of the parents backing the management.

The second shift came on July 1, to a new building on the same compound after the school reopened. “This is an unsafe, unauthorised venue located above a commercial kitchen and a shopping arcade,” says Bhumi Gajjar, a design researcher whose child studies in the Blue group. “The DDA chief legal adviser’s opinion received via RTI confirms the legality of the school and illegality of the engineering college,” she adds.

The issue of approvals from DDA, the department of education and AICTE for the college has added to the confusion. “On March 20, the entire school was sent on an all-paid-for picnic, the same day AICTE conducted an inspection for the proposed college,” said Deepak Gopinath, a writer and economic analyst, whose child goes to the school.

The parents allege the school has been talking about an “invented threat” from DDA to justify shifting the students. “There has been a showcause notice by DDA served to the school and this document has been shown to the parents,” counters Kunal Sinha, whose child has been studying at Mirambika for seven years.

An anonymous blog (savemirambika. wordpress.com) with updates in the case has come up, which members close to the management claim has been put up by the protesting parents to “malign” them. None of the protesting parents has taken responsibility for this blog. “It is not a ‘save Mirambika’ but a ‘finish Mirambika’ blog, it is sowing seeds of distrust,” says one parent not among the protesters.

Pranjal Jauhar, a grandson of the founder of the Delhi branch of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and now the vice-chairman of the ashram, has so far refused to comment on the controversy. “Even in the meeting that the management had with parents on April 21, Pranjal stayed for just 10 minutes,” says Deepak Gopinath.

The principal of the school, Jayanthi didi, said says had “no comments” till the trial continues. “Students are getting disturbed because of the hyperactivity of some of the parents. It’s an attention-seeking activity, more about the entitlement of the parents than the students,” says Bhatia.

The protesters are showing no signs of budging yet. Some of them have begun a fast to press their demands. A hearing in the case is scheduled for July 17, “but whatever the outcome we will continue our fight”, vows one of the parents.

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  1. B
    BG
    Jul 16, 2015 at 8:42 am
    I have a question for Mr. Bhatia...regarding the quote about enlement of parents...how would you react if you were vacated from your office or home to make space for thousands of homeless living on the streets of Delhi. Would you accept it as divines wish???
    Reply
  2. M
    MBKParent
    Jul 16, 2015 at 9:38 am
    Parents from all walks of life including EWS parents are protesting. Not sure why the emphasis is on "writers, artists and professors"?
    Reply
  3. K
    Kumar d.
    Jul 16, 2015 at 9:53 am
    The children of mirambika have been made to attend school in a building that has no appropriate fire exit. Aside from the fact that the shifting out of the children was illegal and atrocious, they are in a space that is dangerous. Parents are asking if something were to happen - who would be held responsible? Why are they spending even one second in a building that is not fire safe?
    Reply
  4. W
    Worried parent
    Jul 16, 2015 at 9:29 am
    The children of mirambika miss their school, they have been stuffed into a building which has NO approvals and IS NOT fire safe, their rightful school campus lies vacant and awaits their return. They cannot understand why the school is not moving back? Nor can the parents. As now the DDA have given in writing that it is legal and encouraged that the school moves back, does that not mean that the management concocted the DDA threat? Is this how school children are meant to be treated? Please help us and our children move back to a safe campus. Every day in this illegal building threatens the safety of our children.
    Reply
  5. T
    troubled parent
    Jul 16, 2015 at 10:44 am
    It's absolutely disheartening to see the kids who once loved their beautiful school more than anything else, who did not want to leave school to go home everyday and parents had a tough time getting them off campus, today rush out the moment school is done. Mirambika was more important than home to them. The building symbolised a lot and carried to a great deal the spirit of mirambika. Unfortunately some can't see that and see it as just a building that some parents feel enlement to...its just sad.
    Reply
  6. A
    anupama chib
    Jul 16, 2015 at 8:28 am
    Dear Ankita, they are not 30 parents, There are more than triple than the number you have mentioned .We can't all be there at the same time So u just see approx 30 or even fewer than 30 at times. Yes we do hv tents, food and water. We hv the tents so we are using them. Didn't get them specially fr the dharna. Food and water would be required where there are children and parents. Everyone contributes in whatever way they can . Main point is that there was gross injustice n immense lies. We just want our children in their rightful environment, which is the original Mirambika building where our children were before 14 th April. Parents have always been an integral part of Mirambika so yes, we feel hurt and wronged too. As much as our children do.
    Reply
  7. A
    Arijit Ghosh
    Jul 16, 2015 at 12:25 pm
    There is a functional kitchen with a live gas pipeline that runs along the walls of the new building! The Department of Education still gives a clean chit to the new building because the director Padmini Singla's own children study in Mothers International School (also run by SAES). Who said corruption is down in Kejriwal's government? It is coming out in the form of quid-pro-quo favors to carry out grave injustice to small children. Find out the w story at
    Reply
  8. A
    Aumlaan Gooho
    Jul 16, 2015 at 10:53 am
    Mirambika Free Progress School is one of the finest in the country, unique in myriad aspects, not least of which is its very structure - or rather the lack of it. Instead of being nourished & nurtured, it is sought to be sacrificed on the altar of greed. A crying shame. A real tragedy... it beggars belief how low people can stoop.
    Reply
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