Even as Education Minister of Gujarat, Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, on Tuesday refused to budge on the decision to declare seven-day Navratri vacation for schools, calling it a “mature” decision of the state government, associations of private schools in Saurashtra and Surat said that they would defy the government’s order if they get support from the parents.
At least 400 schools in Rajkot and over 800 in Surat have decided to protest against the government’s decision, saying that it would affect studies.
At a press conference in the state capital, Chudasama justified the government’s stand while announcing the revised the dates of Navratri vacation for schools — from October 15-October 21 declared last week to October 10-October 17.
“The decision has been taken in consultation with Chief Minister Vijay Rupani to give seven days vacation during Navratri (including a Sunday) to ensure that the people of Gujarat, especially youths, can enjoy and celebrate Navratri, the symbol of religious and spiritual tradition,” Chudasma said on Tuesday.
He added that the seven-day vacation would not lead to loss of days in school’s educational activities as the same number of days have been deducted from Diwali vacation that has been curtailed — November 5-November 18.
Chudasama also said that the Navratri vacation would not clash with any examinations in schools or colleges, and the decision was taken while noting “thin presence of students in schools and colleges during Navratri” and “people’s sentiments associated with the festival”.
“The decision was not taken in a haste. It is a mature decision,” he added, rejecting the Opposition Congress’s charge that the government took the decision for “cheap publicity”.
But the government’s decision is being opposed by many schools in various parts of the state.
Jatin Bharad, principal of Bharad School in Rajkot, said that the extended vacation in schools was uncalled for. “Students will obviously welcome any announcement of holidays. But students are not mature enough to decide what is good for them and what is not. The vacation will play havoc with the continuity in studies for students. The first school semester of 95 days is already a shorter against 115 days for the second term. All the government, religious and cultural festivals are celebrated in the first semester. Students take four-five days to re-adapt themselves to study schedule as frequent holidays can lead to serious disruptions,” said Bharad.
He suggested that instead of declaring seven-day vacation, the government could have explored options like altering the school timings. “Police notification normally allow garba till 11 pm during Navratri. That is the time when people stay awake as a matter of routine. So, what is the need to keep the schools closed for the entire day? Even if we admit that students stay awake at night longer than usual during Navratri festival, that can be taken care of by changing school hours,” added Bharad.
Ajay Patel, president of Self-financed Schools Association in Rajkot, said that with parents also opposing the government’s move, they may opt to keep the schools open during the government-declared vacation.
“The latest vacation effectively divides the Diwali vacation into two. Due to which, students will find it tough to focus on studies… Whatever feedback we have received from parents so far suggests that they are also against the vacation during Navratri festival and want their wards to attend classes. The government decision notwithstanding, we have therefore decided that we shall keep schools open during Navratri if we have the backing of parents,” Patel told The Indian Express.
Patel, whose association has around 400 private schools of Rajkot district as members, said that they had support from their counterparts in Surat.
“The association of 850 private schools in Surat has also decided that they will keep their schools open during Navratri festival. Earlier, we were thinking of making a representation to government and convey our protest. But now that the Education Minister has reiterated the decision of vacation, we have put off that idea. Instead, we shall contact associations of private schools in the state and decide on a coordinated response. But the bottom-line remains that if parents back us, we shall keep the schools open,” Patel said.
This is not the first time that the Gujarat government has declared a Navratri vacation for schools. The first such experiment was carried out in 1995, when the BJP came to power for the first time. However, the experiment lasted for only two years.