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Project snub to teachers
- Lobbies resent exclusion from Sarva Siksha Abhiyan

Calcutta, Oct. 1: The government has decided not to include organisations of school teachers, irrespective of the party to which they are affiliated, in its ongoing project — the Centre-sponsored Sarva Siksha Abhiyan — to provide elementary education to all children below 14 years.

This is the first time in many years that a project for development of school education is being implemented without involving teachers’ bodies.

Earlier, the organisations played an active part in all major education schemes, including the earlier Centre-sponsored Development of Primary Education Project for imparting primary education to children between six and nine years. The organisations’ opinion was also sought by school education committees like the ones headed by Ashok Mitra, Pabitra Sarkar and Ranjugopal Mukherjee.

Government officials said it was felt that teachers in service would have to devote a lot of time if they are included in the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan. They would not be able to attend their classes and this, in turn, would affect normal functioning of schools.

Moreover, the officials said, the government is unwilling to involve teachers’ organisations in the project as it wants to keep out unionism.

The move has triggered resentment among teachers’ bodies, both of the Left and the anti-Left lobbies. They have approached school education minister Kanti Biswas and demanded that representatives of their organisations be included in the various committees set up by the government to implement the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan.

“We wonder how the government could engage only bureaucrats to implement a project on education. There are certain areas in the SSA which can be best understood by teachers. The project is bound to suffer if the government avoids taking the opinion of experienced teachers,” said Amiya Basu, general secretary of a body of secondary school teachers controlled by the CPI, a Left Front partner.

The Abhiyan’s main objective is to bring all children between six and 14 years (up to Class VIII) under the elementary education umbrella. In Bengal, nearly 31 lakh children in the target group have had no formal elementary education.

Instead of involving teachers, the government wants the entire project — appointment of teachers and supervisors, framing of curriculum and identifying pockets with large numbers of out-of-school children — to be overseen by its senior officials.

Admitting the teachers’ grievances, Biswas said as the Centre is the main fund-provider for the project, it is binding on the state to follow its guidelines. “Going by the central government guidelines, we cannot involve any teachers’ organisation for implementation of the SSA.”

However, Ratan Laskar, general secretary, Secondary School Teachers’ and Employees’ Association, dismissed his argument, saying the guidelines did not bar the government from taking the opinion of teachers’ bodies.

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