The state government’s plan to handover at least 20 government schools to a private educational trust has led to a standoff between Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb and former chief minister Manik Sarkar. The government has also mooted a plan to handover management of the Mid-Day Meal programme in a number of schools under some rural Block Development areas.
In a press statement, Leader of the Opposition and former CM Manik Sarkar said, “…both the decisions of the government are against the positive and significant achievements attained by long-drawn arduous glorious struggles of the education-loving people of Tripura for ceaseless expansion of education to ensure the birthright of education…”
The veteran communist leader and legislator also cautioned that the reforms are appearing as “prelude and signal aiming to the gradual move for disowning the previous responsibilities of a state government towards education and handing it over to private players”.
Terming the move highly unusual, Sarkar requested the Biplab Deb government to roll back the decisions and ensure public education for all, claiming that privatising public schools would deprive students from poorer sections a chance to study in them.
He also expressed concern that handing over Mid-Day Meal management to a single agency would have adverse effects on local businessmen who had been supplying raw materials for the scheme so far.
Shortly after Sarkar’s statement, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb lashed out at him saying teachers’ accountability was an alien concept in the past. The reformist decisions were taken to reform the educational system of the state, he added.
In his reply, Deb said certain schools were closed down due to zero or close to zero enrolment. Many of them were on the verge of closure since they had less than 10 students each. These schools were handed over to a charitable organisation to run English-medium schools in them and, thus, utilise the assets created with tax-payers’ money, the CM said.
He also criticised the erstwhile Left Front government of protecting ‘deep-rooted elitist interests’ by not implementing Section 12 (1) (c) of the Right to Education Act, 2009, which mandates all private schools to admit 25 per cent of its students from economically weaker sections.
Earlier in June this year, Tripura education minister Ratan Lal Nath said that a report has found 147 out of 4,398 govt and govt-aided schools in Tripura have less than 10 students and 13 others didn’t have any students at all. Most of these schools were started without proper planning, which is why they didn’t have sufficient students.
Management charges of twenty among these schools were handed over to ISKCON, a religious charitable trust, for a period of five years subject to certain conditions. The rest might be handed over to other private organisations depending on their eligibility, the minister had said.