Assam: War of words over Aam Aadmi Party's school model
A cabinet minister in the BJP-led Assam government on Thursday dismissed the Aam Aadmi Party education model for having “demolished” Delhi’s education system, drawing an equally sharp response from the AAP’s Assam unit.
The observation of Assam minister Pijush Hazarika, a close aide of chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, comes in less than 10 days of a front page New York Times report lauding the efforts of the AAP-ruled Delhi to improve the condition of government-run schools in the national capital.
The trigger for Hazarika’s observation was Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s reaction to a media report on Assam shutting down 34 government-run schools for zero pass percentage in this year’s matric examination.
Kejriwal had tweeted that shutting down school was not a solution because there was a need to open more schools in India. He said instead of closing down schools the need was to improve the schools.
In response, Hazarika tweeted, “Firstly, schools in Assam are not being closed, rather amalgamated to improve the overall educational environment! Secondly, respected CM@ArvindKejriwal ji have no rights to speak on educational upliftment as his fake ‘Delhi Model Schools’ have been busted from time to time.”
Firstly,schools in Assam are not being closed,rather amalgamated to improve the overall educational environment!— Pijush Hazarika (@Pijush_hazarika) August 25, 2022
Secondly,respected CM @ArvindKejriwal ji have no rights to speak on educational upliftment as his fake ‘Delhi Model Schools’ have been busted from time to time. (1/2) https://t.co/rO88xd3ywK
In another tweet, Hazarika said the AAP education model has “demolished” Delhi’s education system, bringing down Class X pass percentage from 99.09 per cent in 2011 to 81.27 per cent in 2022!
“The great model schools of Delhi stand poorly in all aspects as compared to Puducherry! Kejriwal ji should visit Assam rather to learn,” he said.
The AAP too did not hold back. AAP’s Assam state co-ordinator Bhaben Choudhury said Delhi’s school model has received widespread praise referring to the NYT report and also the fact that several states are trying to replicate the model.
“We are not saying you implement the Delhi model in Assam, you implement an Assam model making education free up to Class XII! The overall education system in Assam is there for all to see... We would also want to know what the incumbent chief minister did when he was the education minister fort such a long time!” Choudhury said.
He then pointed out to the HSLC pass percentage of Assam in 2022. Around 56.49 per cent passed the exam this year compared to 93 per cent in 2021. While admitting to the fall in Delhi Class X pass percentage due to pandemic, Choudhury said the Class XII pass percentage of government schools this year was 96.29 per cent, the highest overall in the country (92.71).
Choudhury also referred to a recent letter by education minister Ranoj Pegu to all 126 MLAs to mobilise resources and funds from the local people to improve basic infrastructure in government-run schools. He said the plan is to close down around 2200 government schools in Assam owing to poor result and dwindling enrolment.
“The Assam minister highlighted Delhi’s matric result but not the Class XII results which was the highest in the country! In Delhi over three lakh students have shifted from private schools to government schools after AAP came to power. On the other hand, enrolment is going down in Assam government schools! This is bound to happen when ministers, including chief minister, say teachers are not good, there is zero result instead of improving infrastructure and teaching,” Choudhury said.
By Thursday evening, the Assam chief minister joined issue by tweeting, “Dear @ArvindKejriwal Ji - As usual you commented on something without any homework! Since my days as Edu Minister, till now, please note, Assam Govt has established/ taken over 8610 NEW SCHOOLS; break-up below. How many new schools Delhi Government has started in last 7 yrs?”
Dear @ArvindKejriwal Ji - As usual you commented on something without any homework!— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) August 25, 2022
Since my days as Edu Minister, till now, please note, Assam Govt has established/ taken over 8610 NEW SCHOOLS; break-up below.
How many new schools Delhi Government has started in last 7 yrs? https://t.co/PTV7bO4GKL
The sparring continued on Friday with Sarma pointing out that there was no comparison between the two states, “Delhi has around 1200 government schools, we have around 70,000.”
Kejriwal responded with a tongue-in-cheek tweet in Hindi by pointing out that his Assam counterpart seemed to have taking his suggestion on not shutting down schools otherwise. “... My intention was not to find your shortcomings. We are one country. We have to learn from each other, then only India can become the number one country. I am visiting Assam. Tell me when to come? You show me the good things you have done in the education sector. You come to Delhi, I will show what Delhi has done,” Kejriwal said.
Political watchers said the sparring between the ruling BJP and Opposition AAP over the education model is reflective of the overall political situation in the country where the AAP is trying to emerge as a strong alternative to the BJP.
The AAP has targeted the ruling BJP in Assam over alleged irregularities in purchase of PPE kits and sanitisers based on media reports leading to Assam chief minister and his wife filing defamation case against Delhi chief minister Manish Sisodia. The AAP has also filed a police complaint in Guwahati seeking a through probe into the allegations.