Why Not Ensure City Montessori Admits Disadvantaged Children Before Visiting It, Adityanath?

Adityanath’s visit to City Montessori will provide legitimacy to a school which doesn’t honour the orders of his government or administration and flouts the national law openly.

In UP, corrupt politics has made an alliance with the education mafia. Credit: PTI/ YouTube

Lucknow’s City Montessori School (CMS) is the venue for an event to present sanitation awards on September 12. Organised by India Today, the event will see the participation of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, deputy chief ministers Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma, Vidhan Sabha speaker and state minister for law and justice Brijesh Pathak, mayor of Varanasi Ram Gopal Mohle and film personality Shilpa Shetty are participating.

For some time now, the CMS has been defying the Lucknow district magistrate’s order to admit children from disadvantaged groups and weaker sections to its various branches. Under section 12(1)(c) of the Right to Education Act, 2009, the school is is supposed to admit children to classes 1 to 8 free of cost. Thirteen Valmiki children were admitted in its Indira Nagar branch in 2015-16 because of a Supreme Court’s direction. But the school has not admitted a single child on its own after that, even though orders of admission of 18, 55 and 296 children for the academic years 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18, respectively, are pending.

Adityanath’s visit to City Montessori will provide legitimacy to a school which doesn’t honour the orders of his government or administration and flouts the national law openly. Adityanath made an announcement earlier that he would improve the quality of government schools to such an extent, that people would not need to admit children to private schools. He also said that everybody should get their children educated in government schools. It is noteworthy that the 2015 Allahabad high court order by Justice Sudhir Agarwal directed the UP chief secretary to ensure that all government servants send their children to primary schools run by the state basic education board. The previous Akhilesh Yadav government didn’t implement it and neither has the Adityanath government given any indication that it is serious about implementing it. The Yogi has only made a statement once supporting the spirit of the judgment. But that he would join hands with the lobby of private schools so soon in his chief ministership was not expected.

Predictably, the BJP government, like its predecessors, too has become a patron of the private education camp. Maybe it is politically expedient for parties to protect the interests of private businesses. Jagdish Gandhi, founder-manager of CMS, is a symbol of the commercialisation of education and questions will be raised about any government which hobnobs with him. The Yadav government awarded him the Yash Bharti award. After Jagdish opposed the admission of children under section 12(1)(c) of the RTE Act in his school in 2015, the Yadav government also awarded his wife Bharti Gandhi with the Rani Laxmi Bai bravery award. Was the bravery of the Gandhis in opposing the admissions of underprivileged children? Now the Adityanath government also seems to have come under Jagdish’s influence.

The BJP is a pro-rich party anyway. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the government schools which are not being run well should be handed over to the private groups. It is not difficult to imagine that privatisation of education can damage the quality of government schools and make good education out of the reach of poor children. The basic premise of privatisation is to carry out any activity with the sole motive of earning profit. If schools are run for profit making, as is already happening, how are poor children expected to have access to them? Section 12(1)(c) of the RTE Act mandates 25% reservation for children from economically and socially disadvantaged sections in private unaided schools. But the manner in which Jagdish Gandhi and other owners of private schools are out to scuttle this provision of the Act, it doesn’t appear that underprivileged children will gain much from this.

Local businessman and BJP leader in Lucknow, Sudhir Halwasiya, has also denied admissions in his school Navyug Radiance. When a BJP leader is openly violating the Act, it can be imagined what the state of affairs of its implementation would be. The parents whose children have been issued orders for admission under section 12(1)(c) of the Act are running from pillar to post but their dream of getting their children educated in good schools has been grounded. Some are approaching the court but it is not within everyone’s means to take that course.

Private promoters are averse to any government interference in their school in the form of 25% of their admissions being thrown open to the poor. In a way, this 25% nationalisation of private schools is what private schools are resisting. It is up to the government to take a stand on whether it will allow private schools to have their way or will enforce compliance of the Act by securing admissions for underprivileged children who now have a right to the same education as the children of rich receive.

In UP, corrupt politics has made an alliance with the private education lobby. People who were under the impression that corruption will decrease if not be completely eliminated under BJP rule should at least be disillusioned now. If anything, corruption under the BJP regime has increased.

Sandeep Pandey is a Magsaysay Award-winning activist and scholar who co-founded Asha for Education.

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