The demand for a cabinet minister to take over the primary and secondary education portfolio in Karnataka is not something that has come out recently. Ever since N. Mahesh, the lone Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) minister in the Congress-JD(S) coalition government, resigned last October, several activists and education experts have sought for an urgent replacement.
However, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy chose to hold on to the portfolio along with other departments under his belt, including finance, energy and textiles. Incidentally, the news of a cabinet reshuffle and speculations that more legislators might be inducted by the end of this year raised hopes of a newcomer taking over the education portfolio. This, however, never happened.
The plight of government schools across the state such as lack of infrastructure facilities, the introduction of English medium classes, the declining number of enrolments and various issues related to the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act continued to make headlines. Questioning this, education reformist and lead campaigner of #SaveGovtSchools Anil Shetty has written an open letter to the Chief Minister, demanding the immediate appointment of a dedicated Primary and Secondary Education minister.
#savegovtschools letter to @CMofKarnataka @hd_kumaraswamy demanding appointment of Education Minister.
Future of our state depends on how we educate our children.@kiranshaw @TVMohandasPai @shetty_rishab @rickykej @RevathyAshok @dineshgrao @siddaramaiah @Joshi_Aar @DrParameshwara pic.twitter.com/aCnonQmmgh
— Anil Shetty (@iamanilshetty) April 26, 2019
“It is indeed disappointing to see that a good education minister has not been appointed yet in the state after the tenure of N Mahesh. Even though you have taken up the responsibility of education portfolio, you have been busy with campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections throughout. It is understandable that leading a coalition government is tough but ignoring the education department makes us feel that you are disinterested in the development and growth of students in Karnataka,” the letter read.
Elaborating on the same, Mr Shetty told indianexpress.com that the government should be handing over this important portfolio to a “young and motivated” minister. “Someone who is efficient to handle day-to-day activities and to be in constant dialogue on-field with the beneficiaries and stakeholders of the education system should be picked. Kumaraswamy should also ensure that the new minister has no nexus in running any private educational institution,” he said.
At the same time, education experts observe that the absence of a minister during the ‘peak’ exam season might have had a standing impact in all decisions taken. “When it comes to taking firm decisions in policy-making, the stance of a minister is important to further all actions. Importantly, examinations have passed by and admissions for the upcoming academic year will begin soon. Appointing a dedicated minister to the Primary and Secondary portfolio is hence very urgent as the education department lacks an Executive Head at the moment,” said Niranjanaradhya V.P, Senior Fellow and Programme Head, Universalisation of Equitable Quality Education Programme, Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University.
An online petition is doing rounds on social media and on WhatsApp groups demanding the appointment of a standalone education minister.