Are SC primary schools in UP destined to die?
"Much against the sympathy often expressed by those in power for the depressed classes, the state government seems to be hell-bent upon pushing into the ditch as many as 585 primary schools for scheduled caste children in Uttar Pradesh," said here on Tuesday Mr LK Aherwar, general secretary of the Scheduled Caste (SC) Primary School Teachers Association.
"If the state government recognises the need to run Urdu and Sanskrit schools, why should it want to finish off the primary schools for the children of the depressed class?" asked Mr Aherwar, while narrating the woes of hapless teachers and employees of the SC primary schools all over the state.
Uttar Pradesh, he pointed out, is the country's highest Scheduled Caste-populated state. In the 585 SC primary schools, being run at present in UP by the social welfare department, approximately 4,000 teachers and employees are working and 1.40 lakh children from the downtrodden class are receiving primary education.
Before the year 1932, recalled Mr Aherwar, when the social and educational status of the depressed class was very pitiable and the doors of education were not open for them, Dr BR Ambedkar worked hard for them, and ultimately, the British government assigned to voluntary institutions the role to run separate schools for SC children. These in due course of time came to be known as Harijan schools. In the beginning, the number of such schools in the state was nominal but when it gave positive output, the government, after Independence, realising their importance, promoted these primary schools, taking their number to 585, being run now by the social welfare department. However, the teachers and employees of these schools were shabbily treated, keeping them deprived of the pay and facilities which were available to those serving the primary schools, run by the basic education department.
To give vent to their frustration, the teachers and staff of the SC schools from all over UP observed `black day' at the gate of the UP Assembly on August 15, 1995, leading to a police lathi-charge on them. The protest was called off only when the social welfare minister conceded their legitimate demand before newsmen and Doordarshan TV camera. It was promised that they would get the same basic pay as was being paid to the teachers in the primary schools being run by the basic education department. Not only this, Mr Aherwar recalled, when the teachers, as a follow-up action, met social welfare secretary, Mr Swarn Das, and other officials, including Mr SR Lakha, in the secretariat on August 17, 1995, they all had assured that the demands would be met by September 30, 1995.
But sadly and shockingly, said Mr Aherwar, the scene today was that the teachers and staff of SC primary schools were still not getting what they had been promised, and, worse, they were not even getting regularly their salary. Payment of dearness allowance and increments had been stopped from March 8, 1999, and the attitude of the present UP Welfare Minister, Mrs Premlata Katiyar, towards the SC primary schools was "step-motherly".
On the one side the state government makes declarations for the uplift of the depressed class and on the other hand, it is killing primary education of SC children, said Mr Aherwar. "If the welfare department is finding itself economically unfit to run these schools, why can't these be handed over to the education department?" he asked. If even this is not possible it should hand over these schools to the Central Government, he said. The Central Government cannot abdicate its responsibility towards the depressed class till it came at par with other classes.
After Independence, he remarked, the Basic Education Board, `madarsas' and Sanskrit schools had taken birth, but the fate of the SC primary schools had taken the turn for worse, making one feel that "once depressed, always depressed" is the ultimate destiny of the SC people.
"Why these SC schools are not getting the same status as is being enjoyed by other state-run educational institutions, when the Constitution and court rulings, strictly provide for equal pay and facilities for equal work?" he asked, concluding.