The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Terms for church school heads

Calcutta, Oct. 3: Missionary schools affiliated to the primary and secondary boards of education will now have to follow government rules to appoint Christian heads, if they wish to continue availing state funds.

School education minister Kanti Biswas today said the decision, conveyed recently to 1,500 English and Bengali-medium schools, was aimed at streamlining recruitment.

“We are not interested in meddling in their affairs. Our primary objective is to make them acknowledge the need for a structured recruitment process. No school is under obligation to do this if it does not take government aid,” he said.

When the order comes into force, missionary schools will have to: (i) advertise in newspapers that a post of head is vacant and seek applications from suitable candidates; (ii) hold interviews and prepare a panel for final selection.

The initiative has echoes of the government’s partially successful attempt -- first made in the late nineties -- to get Ramakrishna Mission schools to appoint teachers and heads from the School Service Commission, a state-run agency.

A senior official of this commission said missionary schools would have to conform to the government line that favours “merit-based, transparent” recruitment.

“We have not begun to play, as yet, any role in such appointments by the missionary schools,” commission chairman Ranajit Basu said.

“But it is our stated policy that a school, be it a general category institution or run by a minority community, will have to accept our recruitment rules if it wants to avail government assistance.”

The order drew protests from church denominations. At a meet organised by the Bangiya Christiya Parisheba, church officials said the order violated Article 30 which guarantees minorities the right to frame rules and pursue policies pertaining to their educational institutions.

“Never in the past have we been asked to follow this kind of procedure for selecting heads of our own schools,” said Fr Faustine Brank, a Catholic priest and president of the Parisheba’s education cell.

“Our priests and nuns belong to a higher spiritual station, how can they be asked to appear before a screening committee which is a temporal thing'” he asked.

Reverend Brojen Malakar, a bishop of the Church Of North India, said: “After failing to make Ramakrishna Mission fall in line, they (the government) are trying to force their rules down our throat. We are going to resist with all our might.”

Ramakrishna Mission had refused to let the government have a say in the appointment of its heads, who must be either a monk or a nun from the Ramakrishna order.

But the mission authorities recently agreed to pick teachers from panels formed by the School Service Commission, after the procedure to set up the panel was modified to its satisfaction.

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