Of Illegal Private Schools

There is probably no tion on earth that is as obsessed as we are about using euphemisms for even ordiry things and common everyday activities. We call our schools “temples of learning” even if they are one-room shacks with broken roofs and sometimes without a single teacher. Worse, nowadays government-run schools are deemed to be fit only for the poorest of the poor. About half-a-century ago, when there were no private schools or English-medium schools, the government schools where the best options in any district headquarters. The teaching in these schools was done by very competent and dedicated teachers. It is almost impossible to find teachers of their calibre even in the best private schools offering very high salaries to their staff. Among the two radical changes that have done great harm to our education today is a total change in the attitude to education and the complete apathy of the government to the proper functioning of both government and private schools. Education has ceased to be the mission that it was. It has become a lucrative business. It is, therefore, idle to expect any value-based education being imparted in present-day schools. However, what is both shocking and saddening is that many of the private schools in Guwahati are known to be operating illegally without registration or the requisite permission from the appropriate authorities. Of the 377 high and higher secondary schools in the Kamrup (Metro) district, 256 are private schools. A recent survey revealed that 145 out of the 256 private schools are functioning without any permission from the administration and the district Education Department. In a sense, therefore, our ‘temples of learning’ are themselves motivating students to flout existing rules relating even to the running of schools and thereby promoting total disregard of the rule of law so vital for all citizens of a democracy. It is obvious that most of these schools would have failed to fulfil the requirements for recognition as schools if they had applied for registration in the proper manner. This is because apart from the norms set for classrooms and buildings, there is also the stipulation that all schools must have a playground in order to secure recognition.

The district administration has rightly decided to take very stringent action against all schools that have been operating illegally without the permission of the district administration and the education authorities. However, since the Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup (Metro) has to ensure that the shutting down of all such illegal schools does not jeopardize their students for no fault of theirs, he has decided to give the illegal schools an opportunity to secure necessary permission and recognition to continue functioning. “But if the schools fail to fall in line, we will have to deal with them with an iron hand,” Kamrup (Metro) Deputy Commissioner K. Angamuthu told jourlists recently. The other complaint against such illegal schools is that they charge exorbitant admission and tuition fees that have little to do with the quality of education that is imparted. It is indeed an established fact that most of these illegal private schools exist not to impart education but rather to make hefty profits out of the business called education. No wonder, we have even a whole lot of private colleges without students operating in the city that must be thriving solely on UGC grants given to the number of students on the rolls rather than those actually studying in such colleges. The district administration has also done well to monitor the condition and working of school buses more strictly. The Deputy Commissioner has also proposed the introduction of smaller vehicles to pick up school children from interior areas where it is difficult for buses to ply. And contrary to earlier notifications, he has agreed to let parents use private vehicles to drop their children at school and pick them up later on. He has, however, stipulated that such vehicles can be allowed to stand in front of schools only for a few minutes in order to prevent traffic congestion. He can afford to be far more specific. The time given for each child to get on or off a car need not be more than 20 seconds.

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