The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Teacher standoff cloud on exams

Guwahati, Feb. 19: The Assam government today refused to concede any more demands of the striking schoolteachers, putting a question mark on the impending high school leaving certificate and higher secondary examinations.

Schoolteachers have threatened to boycott the two examinations if their two main demands — provincialisation of government-aided schools and release of salary arrears — are not fulfilled by the end of this month. The higher secondary examination is scheduled to get underway on February 24, while the matric examination begins on March 4.

The deadline set by the All-Assam Students’ Union for Dispur to resolve the issue ended today.

With education minister Pankaj Bora going to New Delhi to attend the wedding of the chief minister’s daughter, a meeting between the education department and representatives of teachers’ associations was cancelled at the last minute.

Education commissioner Prem Saran, however, told The Telegraph that “efforts are on to find a way out”. He said the government did not want to take harsh steps like invoking the Essential Services Maintenance Act (Esma) to compel the teachers to do examination duty.

Dispur has been pleading with the teachers’ associations to suspend their agitation in view of the education department’s precarious financial condition. “We have already fulfilled most of their demands and expect them to co-operate with us in conducting the examinations on time in the interests of lakhs of students,” Saran said.

The education commissioner said the state government had decided against either altering the examination schedule or antagonising the teachers’ associations by bringing examination duty under the purview of Esma.

“We are hopeful of ending the impasse in an amicable manner but will not alter the examination schedule under any circumstance because it will affect the students, particularly those who want to pursue higher studies in institutions outside Assam,” Saran said.

But teachers associations contended that the state government was not serious about redressing their grievances. They accused Dispur of going back on its promise to fulfil their demands for provincialisation of government-aided schools and release of salary arrears.

The Board of Secondary Education, Assam (SEBA), has convened a meeting of its examination committee on February 25 to chalk out a contingency plan for the examinations. “We have made alternative arrangements, which will be approved at the examination committee’s meeting,” SEBA chairman Dinanath Barman said.

Gauhati University has postponed the Part I examination of its three-year degree course, originally scheduled to commence today, to March 22.

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