AIFUCTO Calls for Withdrawing NEP, Revival of old Pension Scheme
New Delhi: On a rainy Wednesday morning, after "thousands of petitions and suggestions" to the Union government's pilot New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, hundreds of teachers from across the country reached the heart of the city to present a 25-point charter of demands in front of parliamentarians in the ongoing Monsoon session.
Under the banner of the All India Federation of University and College Teachers Organisations (AIFUCTO), educationists from various state and central universities gathered at Delhi's Jantar Mantar to reiterate their rejection of NEP, CUET, FYUP, HEFA, and several other structural changes being implemented in the educational sector.
AIFUCTO is a leading body of university and college teachers' associations in the country and represents more than six lakh teachers. It claims to be the world's largest organisation in this field.
Talking to NewsClick, Rajeev Kunwar, associate professor at Dyal Singh College, said that in the two years of the pandemic, the Union government pushed major policy changes in education. "A front attack was made on the teachers' community during the pandemic. Be it the Academic Bank of Credits (ABCs), Four-Year Undergraduate Program (FYUP), or other schemes, the driving force is the desire to institutionalise the online mode of imparting education. The agenda is also to relegate the education budget to the mercy of the market," Kunwar said.
He added, "If you look at the Central University Entrance Test (CUET), the direct implication is the total destruction of school education." This year, the UGC implemented the Central University Entrance Test (CUET), which is now mandatory for undergraduate admission at any of the 45 central universities in the country. The move has raised concerns among students and academicians. "We see, therefore, that NEP, which is the guiding light of all such schemes, is against the entire education community - students, staff, and teachers," Kunwar said.
Keshab Bhattacharya, president of AIFUCTO, who presided over the convention, said that the introduction of the online mode put immense pressure on the teaching community. "Already 12 online programs have been uploaded. It is certain that recruitment of teachers in certain subjects is going to be less now," he said. Bhattacharya also lamented how upward mobility and security after retirement in the teaching sector have been made extremely difficult due to policies of the Union government.
His concerns were echoed by a professor from Maharashtra's Jalgaon. Surekha Palve, who teaches at the KBC North Maharashtra University, raised questions about the pensions and other perks received by MPs and MLAs even after their tenure is over. "They receive their pensions for life, while we teachers, who make such an important contribution to society, give 30-35 years into service and sacrifice our family life, receive nothing (under the present regime)," Palve told Newsclick. She echoed one of the key demands of the charter to bring back the old pension scheme (OPS).
Palve also highlighted the pitfalls of pushing the online mode of education. "My university is based in a tribal area. During the pandemics, when classes went online, my students would call me at 10 pm, saying that they had no network in their area and were worried about sitting for online exams the next day. Then there were parents who could not afford smartphones for their children. First, the government must ensure basic infrastructure before instituting an online mode of education," she said.
AIFUCTO Charter of Demands
Various unions like Punjab & Chandigarh College Teachers Union (PCCTU), All Kerala Private College Teachers' Associations (AKPCTA), Haryana Government College Teachers' Association (HGCTA), Bihar University Teachers' Association (BUTA), Tamil Nadu Retired College Teachers' Association, Rajasthan University & College Teachers' Association, etc. joined the convention. Other organisations like the All India Peoples' Science Network (AIPSCN) and All India Save Education Committee (AISEC) also joined in solidarity.
Arun Kumar, general secretary of AIFUCTO, asserted that NEP was a sure-shot way of killing the education sector. He said the administration of institutions was being hampered under the NEP in multiple ways: "The government and the ruling party is appointed board of governors for administering various campuses. Elsewhere, religious trusts are running colleges now. One can only imagine what will happen with education in these places."
Kumar also stressed the existing vacancies in universities. "About thousands of posts are lying vacant in Delhi University itself, while 4,000 positions have been filled on an ad-hoc basis. We demand that the vacancies be filled and that ad-hoc faculty is made permanent," he said.
In a rousing speech that attracted applause from the audience, Sharda Dixit, a retired principal from Delhi's Narela, shared how Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, a nineteenth-century educator, had said that when reforms fail, it is only a revolutionary struggle that can bring victory. "Our universities are being eyed by private companies like jackals surrounding a vulnerable prey. We must stand up and defend public education with all our strength," she said.
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