Five years after coming under the scanner of the education reform committee, which recommended the closure of Gyan Shala for “illegally stopping children from taking admission in government schools”, the non-government organisation (NGO) has agreed to discontinue its secondary classes in Ahmedabad from this academic session. The affected children will be admitted to the nearest government schools.
The state government is planning to close down the NGO’s primary classes (from Class I to VIII) as well though the NGO hopes for a way out. “Regularisation of primary classes will not be allowed in Gyan Shala. They are depriving children of formal schooling. In most of the cases, government schools are right beside these illegal classes run by the NGO. As a result, the enrolment in our schools goes down,” Gujarat Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama told The Indian Express.
Closing down of the secondary classes came after a series of letters by the education department questioning the functioning of Gyan Shala and directing it to close down its centres that are “keeping away students from state government benefits and schemes” followed by inspection of all its centres in Ahmedabad.
“In response to the feedback from government officials concerned, we decided to close Gyan Shala high school program, covering education in grades 9-10,” states the letter dated July 31 submitted to the education department by Gyan Shala chief executive officer Pankaj Jain.
On the reasons for closing down, Pankaj Jain, who is also one of the founder members, said, “We are closing down our secondary classes for this year due to procedural delays children and their parents face in admissions and other processes in classes IX and XI. Class IX onwards, regularistion of Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board is required in addition to that of the education department. We were facing issues with children who want to take mainstream education after Class VIII or X.”
The education department, in its order on August 6, stated that all students from Gyan Shala’s centres would be admitted to the nearest schools.
“These centres prevent children from getting enrolled in government or municipal schools that offer free education along with schemes like mid-day meal, uniform, scholarships, books as well as all the other facilities such as trained faculty, smart classes and playgrounds. We had strict instructions from the state government to close these centres,” said a senior education official on condition of anonymity.
Nearly 350 students — 230 in Class IX and 120 in Class X — at around 30 centres of Gyan Shala in Ahmedabad will be admitted to the nearest grant-in-aid schools mostly in Amraiwadi, Vadaj, Vasna, Vatva, Danilimda, Shah-e-alam, Jamalpur and Chamanpura.
About primary classes, Jain said, “We are working out on an understanding with the education department where these centres are to be regularised.”
Started in 2000
Gyan Shala, run by Education Support Organisation (ESO), was set up in the year 2000 by a group of the then faculty members of the Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad, and Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA).
The centres are run in slum areas from a chawl or a small room taken on rent. No fee is charged from students for elementary classes, while it charges equal to 25 per cent of programme cost for middle and high school programmes.
Initiaslly begun with education for Class I-III students in 2000, it later expanded to middle and then to high school education in 2011. In 2005-06, Gyan Shala started its middle school programme covering Class IV till VIII followed by 2011 when it started the high school module with 180 children who took Gujarat Open High School Exam, this year. At present, nearly 6000 children are studying from Class I till VIII in the slum areas of Ahmedabad and another 2,000 from Class I till III in Surat city.
Tracing the dispute
In May 2013, Pankaj Jain filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court against the state education department and Ahmedabad Municipal School Board for denying general register (GR) numbers to 2,200 underprivileged children from slum areas in Ahmedabad who finished three years of Special Training Programme (STP) run by Gyan Shala under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) scheme.
The High Court ordered to provide GR numbers within 10 days, which was duly implemented. The GR number is mandatory for getting admission in a government or private school. However, since 2012, Gyan Shala was not involved in the STP scheme under SSA.
A five-member education reform committee, in its report to the state government in July 2014, strongly recommended strict action against organisations that run “illegal classes” and restrict children from getting enrolled in municipal schools. It made specific reference to Gyan Shala that runs “illegal and non-approved classes” in Ahmedabad and Surat.
“In city and rural areas, several organisations under the pretext of social work, adopt illegal ways to stop children from getting admission in Class I at municipal and government schools. Strict action should be taken against such organisations,” the report recommended.