Thomas D’Souza (left) and Derek O’Brien at the media conference on Saturday
Calcutta, Nov. 16: The state government will set up a separate wing in the school education department to address the grievances of Christian missionary schools in Bengal.
State-funded missionary primary schools will be allowed to recruit teachers on their own without clearance from the education department, according to another decision taken at a meeting attended by education minister Bratya Basu today.
These schools can now recruit teachers but have to take government permission before filling up vacancies. The schools say it delays the process of filling up vacancies.
At the meeting of the West Bengal Association of Christian Schools at the Archbishop’s House on Park Street today, Basu accepted Trinamul MP Derek O’Brien’s proposal for the single-window clearance cell.
“Minority schools that receive state assistance need to interact with the government every now and then on several issues. A separate cell will ease their problems to a great extent,” O’Brien said.
Basu announced the cell at a media conference after the meeting. A senior official of the education department will head the cell, the minister said.
The heads of various churches — including the Archbishop of Calcutta, Most Rev. Thomas D’Souza, who is also the president of the association; Most Rev. Asoke Biswas, the Bishop of the Calcutta Diocese of the Church of North India (CNI); and Father Moloy D’Costa, the general secretary of the association — attended the meeting.
Of the 700-odd Christian missionary schools in the state, around 200 receive government assistance.
The schools had been demanding a separate wing in the education department for years.
A Church source said the state-funded missionary schools were often forced to follow government decisions and orders that were not applicable to them as they belonged to the category of minority institutions.
The source said sometimes the minority schools were clubbed in government orders with general institutions because district inspectors of schools were not aware that certain rules were not applicable to the missionary schools.
A school official said: “After the implementation of the right to education act, all government-aided minority and non-minority schools are supposed to reserve 25 per cent of their seats for students belonging to economically weaker sections. However, unaided Christian missionary schools do not come under this clause.
“But many such unaided schools are often asked by the district inspectors to follow the reservation rule because the officials are not aware of the provisions of the RTE Act.”
The Christian missionary schools, especially those in remote rural areas, often do not know whom to approach in the school education department’s headquarters at Salt Lake in case of problems, sources said. “After the cell is set up, the problems these schools face can be addressed promptly,” the headmaster of a Christian missionary school said.
O’Brien today suggested that regular meetings be held between the district inspectors and the West Bengal Association of Christian Schools to ensure smooth day-to-day functioning of the institutions.