Updated on 1 Dec 2020, 9:00 am
The Manipur Students Federation (MSF) has demanded compulsory schooling for the children or wards of government employees in state-run schools.
In a memorandum submitted to the chief minister on Monday, the MSF appealed to the state government to rejuvenate government-run schools in the spirit of Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act and the global call to universalise education.
The memorandum stated the first step to bring back public-funded schooling is beginning with mandatory schooling for the children or wards of government employees in state-run schools. The unregulated rise of privatised education converted common schooling into a profiteering sector to which the government did not have a policy response to re-consolidate aged-old government-run schools.
The memorandum added that it would not be an exaggeration to argue that most of the government-run schools are not functioning well at present, particularly in far-flung areas.
The infrastructural shortages, poor attendance of teachers and staff have marred quality education in the state. Students belonging to the weaker social backgrounds have been deprived of basic and quality learning, leading to dropout from schooling in the long run.
According to the findings of the Annual Status on Education Report (ASER) 2020, more than 80 per cent of students in Manipur are enrolled in private schools. The finding is a reflection of the dissipated condition of the public education system in Manipur which has been more evident in the last 20 years, the memorandum added.
With the sudden rise of a neo rich class of people in the early 2000s, there has been a huge appropriation of arable land for private activities like real estate businesses and the opening of new schools. These new schools attracted the imagination of the rich and upper-middle classes in Manipur as these schools began to provide hostels, tutorials, digital learning infrastructures, etc.
Even the government employees, administrators, legislatures and elected representatives began to look up to the newly emerging private schools for their wards' education thereby creating multiple layers of schooling, the memorandum stated.
Although education is a Fundamental Right (Article 21A) under the 86 Amendment Act of the Indian Constitution, 2002, accessibility continues to be a major challenge. The issue of inaccessibility is a natural fallout of the growing privatisation of education. Rural and urban poor cannot afford to send their children to private schools, it added.
The Amendment Act which also imposes 'a fundamental duty on parents and guardians to send their children to school' gets disrupted in the absence of accessible public education. There are landmark judgments on the issue by the Honourable Supreme Court.
In the year 2020, the Board of Secondary Education Manipur examination, the pass percentage of private schools was at 74.38 while that of government schools was a mere 40,65 and that of government-aided schools was 51.56 per cent.
The existing system of highly elitist and privatised schooling has concentrated more on marketing education through its too much emphasis on textual learning in the confines of the four walls, the memorandum added.