State-funded Christian missionary schools in Bengal alleged on Tuesday that they would be deprived of their rights since government officials were banking on a 40-year-old list to issue minority status certificates to institutions.
The schools alleged that the list prepared in the mid-1970s has names of only 76 missionary schools when the number stood at nearly 700 as of today. Schools set up after the mid-1970s didn’t figure on the list or some were left out of the “hurriedly compiled” dossier, they added.
Institutions seeking minority status — and the assistance that comes with it — must possess the certificate. It wasn’t the case until 2004.
Members of the West Bengal Association of Christian Schools met education minister Bratya Basu at Bikash Bhavan and requested his intervention. They said the problem cropped up after the state government took it upon itself in 2010 to issue the certificate.
“Many of our schools are facing difficulties because a section of officials at the district inspector offices is questioning their minority status. These schools do not figure on the government list drawn up in the mid-1970s,” said Father Moloy D’Costa, the general secretary of the association.
“We are grateful to the government for giving us the liberty to conduct our own recruitment. But we can function more smoothly if proper initiative is taken to update the list,” D’Costa added.
In the city, schools like Scottish Church, Christ Church, Holy Child and Carmel Convent are government-aided, church-run institutions.
Without the certificate, many schools would lose their special rights as well as academic and administrative independence. For instance, these schools cannot recruit teachers according to their own rules and claim exemption from keeping reserved posts for SC, ST and other categories.
The certificate rule began in 2004 when the Centre ordered that all minority schools must be certified by the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions.
Six years later, the Bengal government framed a rule that these schools would have to get the certificate from the state authorities. The minority affairs department is supposed to issue the certificate within three months from the date the application was submitted.
Several schools alleged that the department kept them in limbo, saying they did not figure on the list of special schools. “We had written to the state government several times in the past three years requesting an updated list. We also want to know whether the certificates issued by the national commission are valid or not,” the source said.
The source said even schools with the certificates — national or state — faced problems when they approached the education department for benefits. “The officials were reluctant to accept those certificates,” he alleged.
A school in South 24-Parganas alleged that it has not made it to the special list “for reasons unknown to them, though the institution was set up before Independence”. The school has a national certificate, but officials denied approval for filling vacancies on the grounds that it lacked the state’s certification and its name was not on 1970s list.
An official admitted “a communication gap” between the education department and the minority affairs department.