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Delhi: Roll Back NEP, it’s not Inclusive, Say Students, Teachers in all-India Protest

The protesters called upon all political parties to prioritise ‘inclusive education’ in their election manifestos.
The protesters called upon all political parties to prioritise ‘inclusive education’ in their election manifestos.

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New Delhi: Over a thousand students and teachers from across the country assembled at Jantar Mantar in the national capital on Saturday to demand the roll-back of the new (national) education policy (NEP) and national curriculum framework.

The protesters, who had gathered on the call of the All India Forum for Right to Education, a collective of more than 100 students, youth and other like-minded organisations, said that the agenda for inclusive education should be in the priority list by political parties ahead of the upcoming general elections.

They said the NEP seems designed to “tear down” the fabric of inclusive education in states where students were increasingly dropping out from school education due to the new structures proposed by it.

Sarovar Benkikere, an engineering student from Bengaluru in Karnataka, recalled his tiring three-day journey to Delhi, and said that students from afar had come to the capital with the hope that they too would be able to get equal opportunities in school and higher education.

“We are losing out our fellowships and scholarships and the students’ families have mortgaged their jewels and properties to continue their education,” he said.

Benkikere said students of Kannada University in Hampi had received their scholarships after three years.  “We did not expect it. It appears that we have entered a strange world where there are very fine schools equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and tech-enabled classes owned by politicians, and then there are schools where everything is missing, from teachers to classrooms,” he added.

He alleged that the NEP in Karnataka came with saffronisation of curriculum, too. “It was the first state to announce the implementation of NEP. First, Bhagat Singh, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and Narayana Guru, who always talked about harmony, were removed to make way for RSS founder Keshav Hedgewar. In higher education, the four-year undergraduate programme has brought disappointment for girls who dreamt of pursuing higher education and establishing their careers. They are under tremendous pressure to leave education because they can easily get the exit option every year with a certificate, diploma or degree,” he added.

Jagdish Chauhan who came from Badwani district in Madhya Pradesh told NewsClick that the state government had started implementing schemes like cluster schools in the form of CM RISE schools, suggested by the NEP without any consultation with stakeholders.

“This means that schools will be merged within 20 kilometers into this big school. This is against the provisions of Right to Education, which maintains that the State should ensure availability of schools every one km. Students in tribal areas have their own problems in the form of topography and poverty. This will only complicate the issue of accessible education,” he said.

Vikram Dev Singh, president, Democratic Teachers Front, Punjab, said that the Centre had entered into an agreement with the Punjab government to open Pradhan Mantri Schools for Rising India, also known as PM Shri Schools. It may sound amazing that the Centre is willing to uplift schools to enable students to participate in hackathons, olympiads and other extra co-curricular activities, however, we must understand that it has already ensured that only revised textbooks by NCERT are taught there. They have already sanitised the syllabus as per the mandate of RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). The states have no autonomy in teaching their syllabus. After our intense campaign and protest, the state was compelled to withdraw its hands. However, the Aam Aadmi Party, which says it is politically opposed to BJP, has imitated their model, called ‘school of eminence’”, he alleged.

Singh said people were still calling it the new education policy not national education policy because it is missing on ‘national character’. Neither were the stakeholders consulted nor was the policy discussed in Parliament,” he added.

He said teachers were apprehensive because this policy explicitly talks about ‘sharing of resources’. This means teachers will be treated as service providers, like Zomato drivers, who may be asked to provide their services to big complex schools, as per requirement.

Lingareddy, who teaches in Telangana, said it was no coincidence that reservation was simply missing from the entire document. “If you remove provisions of reservation from education, for whom then this is this policy meant,” he added.

Vikas Gupta, Academic Council Member, Delhi University, addressed the protesters and said they wanted political parties to put inclusive education in their priorities.

“The issue was already less prioritised in other regimes. However, inclusive education has been dumped altogether in this government to make it an exclusive territory for upper castes, males and the rich. We are finding that fresh orders are landing in central universities to widen ways for philanthropy. This also reflects that the ideologues of the current regime believe that education should not be the State’s responsibility and can be imparted by institutions run by RSS,” he added.

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