Over 150 Students, Teachers Join 50-Day Nationwide Campaign Against NEP, Call For Rollback

The campaign emphasised how the proposed NEP will result in budget cuts, elimination of reservations for the marginalised, fee hikes and a further rise of contractualisation and privatisation in higher education.

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New Delhi: More than 150 students, teachers and eminent public personalities on December 24 attended a nationwide 50-day campaign against the National Education Policy (NEP) at the Press Club of India (PCI) in the national capital.

The PCI conference emphasised how the proposed NEP will result in reduced spending, elimination of reservations for the marginalised, fee hikes and a further rise of contractualisation and privatisation in higher education. The policy seeks to violate the fundamental right to affordable, high quality public education, which shall lead to the exclusion of the lower and middle classes from higher education, speakers said.

Author and historian Syed Irfan Habib stressed upon the issue of “saffronisation” of education while emphasising on the need for a strong movement, such as the recently concluded farmers’ protests against the three agricultural laws, for rolling back the NEP.

He said, “This government and NEP seek to saffronise our whole culture and our daily lives…It is unfortunate that after 70 years of independence, we have come back to the same issues on which we started.”

Also read: The NEP Goes Against the Existing Constitutional Mandate of the RTE

MP Manoj Jha compared the NEP to the disclaimer section of a mutual fund which contains all possible risks, terms and conditions against a consumer. He also drew inspiration from the farmers’ movement to repeal the NEP.

“This draft (NEP) is your farm Bill. Prime Minister Narendra Modi too fears the streets and people’s movements,” the MP said.

A a nationwide campaign against the National Education Policy (NEP) at the Press Club of India, New Delhi, December 24, 2021. Photo: Abhishek Hari

Ratan Lal, a senior professor from Hindu College at the University of Delhi, raised the issue of how NEP is being slowly implemented without any discussion and contains “high-sounding phrases”, making a “mockery of education” while attacking upon the constitutionally guaranteed social justice policies.

“There is no mention of reservation in the entire document,” he pointed out.

Nandita Narain, former Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) president, agreed with Lal, calling the policy “all rhetoric”.

“This farce of ‘graded autonomy’, whereby our autonomy is being snatched away for the market and digitisation through MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and Swayam (Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Mind), all are aimed toward increasing inequality and making us slaves of the corporates,” she said.

Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta, a senior journalist with The Wire, highlighted that the defenders of the policy are those who have nothing to do with higher education, while the critics constitute educationalists and academicians who have dedicated their lives to the cause of education.

“The thrust of NEP is on vocational training rather than quality education,” he said.

“Education is a concurrent subject. The NEP perfectly fits with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) agenda of centralisation with its attack on federalism and regional diversity,” he added.

Pankaj Jha, historian and professor from Lady Shri Ram College at the University of Delhi, stressed on how the discipline of history, including its syllabus, is being hijacked for political gains. Jha further questioned why the names of those designing the course are not being made public.

Maushumi Basu, Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) president, urged the audience to make education a political issue by making people aware of its significance and stressed on how undemocratically the government brought the NEP amidst a pandemic.

“The NEP promotes loan model of education which shall lead to massive fee hikes… The crisis of capitalism is leading the government and corporations to destroy our education system. Students and teachers must unite to fight this onslaught,” she said.

Jitendra Meena, a member of the DUTA’s executive council, highlighted NEP’s insensitivity towards the poor and the reality of India’s digital divide. He further stressed that NEP disrespects regional diversity by reducing the number of recognised languages from the existing 44 to 14.

“The plan of NEP is anti-SC, ST, OBC. It is the re-implementation of Manusmriti,” he said.

Also read: Here’s Why You Can Rejoice Over the New NEP. And Why You Cannot

Laxman Yadav, a faculty member at the University of Delhi, spoke about the anti-research nature of NEP, highlighting the ills of scrapping MPhil degrees in colleges, which serves as a building block to academic research.

“A poor student banks on this degree for employment in order to proceed to a PhD, when they have more financial security…The NEP will cause 40% job losses to the [new] digital model,” he said.

Manoj Manzil, a member of the legislative assembly from Bihar’s Agiaon, called the new policy “anti-national” and sought inspiration from the historic ‘Sadak Par School’ movement in Bhojpur to roll it back. The movement was against the lack of basic school facilities like toilets, shortage of textbooks and teachers, the quality of teaching, casteism and police violence.

“How could we expect people of Bihar who are malnourished to have smartphones… BJP is the killer of Rohith Vemula, Fatima Latheef, Aishwarya Reddy and our movement must seek justice for all dropouts and victims of online education,” he said.