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Voluntary = Mandatory
- On Teachers’ Day, thank PM and learn a new meaning

New Delhi, Sept. 4: Schoolchildren in swathes of India must sit through the Prime Minister’s Teachers’ Day broadcast tomorrow, whatever Smriti Irani may have said.
Despite the Union human resource development minister’s clarification on Monday that whether schools show the event or not is “completely voluntary”, many schools and state education departments are not ready to take chances.

Delhi Public School, Mathura Road, issued a circular yesterday making attendance “compulsory” tomorrow for Classes VI to XII and warned of “strict action” against “absentees”.

Ditto the Amity International School, Delhi, while Bal Bharti in Noida said it would set exam questions from Narendra Modi’s speech.

Many morning schools like DPS will be open from 11am till 5pm tomorrow to catch the 3pm-4.45pm speech-cum-interactive session. Parents are worried because some of the private transporters who ferry children to and from school have balked at an evening service.

All the circulars cite a Delhi government directive that asked schools to screen the Modi broadcast. The order, and similar ones from many other state governments, had followed an August 27 letter from Irani’s ministry that had stopped short of making the screening mandatory.

The state circulars have not been withdrawn even after Irani’s “clarification”.

Bal Bharti, however, has given the day off to its students to prepare for exams that start on Saturday. But it has added a rider: each of the five exam papers for Classes III to XII will have a two-mark question related to Modi’s address.

A circular from principal Asha Prabhakar on Tuesday “sincerely hoped” that “parents and children” would be “hooked to Doordarshan” tomorrow. “I’m sure his (Modi’s) speech would be inspiring,” she told The Telegraph.

A Chandigarh parent said his child, a Class IV student at a private school, had been warned with a Rs 500 fine if he stayed away tomorrow.

For Modi, ensuring full attendance in schools on Teachers’ Day is nothing new. In the last few years of his chief ministership of Gujarat, all state schools watched the local Doordarshan channel’s live broadcast of his speech.

Education officials in each district would order all the secondary and senior secondary schools to arrange for TV sets and ensure the presence of all the teachers and students.

Last week, the Uttar Pradesh government’s secondary education department directed all the district inspectors of schools to ensure that schoolchildren watched the Prime Minister’s speech.

If necessary, the circular said, the 14.36 lakh laptops distributed by the Akhilesh Yadav government among Class XII students should be used to watch the speech over the Internet at their current or former schools.

It asked the inspectors to send photographs and school-wise reports on the event to the directorate office in Lucknow.

Attendance is mandatory in states such as Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and even Congress-ruled Haryana. In Madhya Pradesh, the state education department has ordered a “roll call” of both teachers and students at the end of tomorrow’s telecast.

In BJP-ruled Goa and Congress-governed Kerala, though, the exercise is not mandatory. In Maharashtra, preparations are on in most schools to get their students to listen to Modi on TV, YouTube or radio.

Some Calcutta schools will show the event live with projectors while some others will record it for later viewing by students. “We are not being very rigid about attendance,” said a school principal.

Several Calcutta schools said they wouldn’t screen the event but hoped the students would catch the programme from home.

Additional reporting by our Calcutta Bureau