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Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Colour Pupil: Jharkhand govt schools now in ‘JMM shades’, BJP sees red

35,000 schools to be painted in green and white; with 60,000 teacher posts vacant, BJP says focus should be on quality education.

Written by Abhishek Angad | Ranchi |
May 24, 2022 12:30:27 pm
People raise the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha's flag. (Twitter/JMM)

From pink to shades of green and white. The Jharkhand government’s decision to paint 35,000 state-run school buildings in what is essentially the colour of the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s flag has set off a controversy in the state. While the opposition BJP has decried the “politicisation of schools”, Jharkhand Education Minister Jagarnath Mahato has maintained that everyone likes the colour and hence the decision.

In a letter on May 13, the Jharkhand Education Project Council (JEPC), which comes under the state’s Education Department, ordered the change in colour of the school buildings and added that toilets would be painted in coconut, swan or angora white and frosted green or mehendi green. Doors and windows have to be painted a deep green. At present, the toilets are coloured in shades of blue.

As per a PTI report, the colour of the school buildings was changed from yellow to pink during the BJP rule in 2002-03. In 2014, when JMM was in power, the colour was changed to bright pink, with doors and windows painted in golden brown. In 2018-’19, during the BJP’s rule, the building colour remained unchanged but the toilets were painted blue.

“The idea started with 400 model schools currently being constructed in various districts in Jharkhand,” said a source in the government. “It was decided to paint these schools with shades of green and white. Then it decided to colour all schools, 35,000, with the same. A huge expenditure running into crores will be incurred, which is a marked departure from focussing on key priorities of the state’s education.”

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At present, the state has vacancies for 60,000 teacher posts while less than 20 per cent of schools have principals. The biggest challenge before the government is to assess and reduce learning gaps after the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Sources also pointed out that the engagement of parents’ school management committees is also a big issue.

One of the officers in the education department charged with the task of changing the colours of schools said, “This is nothing but optics by the government. It was a unilateral decision taken by Minister Jagarnath Mahato himself to reinforce the colour of the people in people’s eyes.”

The minister told The Indian Express, “Everyone likes the colour green. Where is the problem? We will talk and solve the matter. The colour should be changed frequently … If the BJP has any problem with the colour then their own flag has some green colour in it, then they should remove it too.”

Mahato also announced that the school curriculum would have chapters on “heroes of the Jharkhand movement” such as JMM co-founders Shibu Soren and Binod Bihari Mahato. A department official said “at least 10 frameworks” were being worked upon in the education sector in Jharkhand. For example, there is an attempt to include arts and culture of Jharkhand in the school syllabus apart from a detailed study of Birsa Munda and freedom fighters of Jharkhand. “In these lines, people from the Jharkhand movement, including Shibu Soren’s name, will also be included,” the official added.

BJP spokesperson Pradeep Sinha lashed out at the government over the “futility” of the colouring exercise. “The colour coat is supposed to be a weather shield as per the letter issued. Where is the budget coming from? The need of the hour is to give quality education to children of Jharkhand. Expenditure should be made on smart classes, reorienting the systems for better learning outcomes. The entire exercise is futile.”

On the inclusion of Shibu Soren in the school curriculum, Sinha added: “Inclusion of names from Jharkhand movement in curriculum seems a good move but the government should not make it about the Soren family.”

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