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Delhi University: Education Activist Nandita Narain Retires After 4 Decades of Teaching

Colleagues remember the St Stephen’s mathematics professor’s ‘fearlessness’ and immense contribution to teachers’ movements.
Delhi University: Education Activist Nandita Narain Retires After 4 Decades of Teaching

New Delhi: Veteran education activist Nandita Narain, who touched the lives of thousands of teachers and students in Delhi University through her teaching and activism, retired on Saturday from St Stephen’s College after four decades of service.

Narain is known for her role as president of Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) in 2016 in resisting the attempt by the University Grants Commission (and the Union government) to “undermine academic standards and reduce teaching posts by increasing teachers’ workload.

As per a Democratic Teachers Front statement, Narain completed her studies in Mathematics in one of the first co-ed batches at St. Stephen’s College (under-graduate in 1979 and post-graduate in 1981). She was a student member of the Academic Council for being a Gold Medallist in her UG and PG in Delhi University.

She joined as a lecturer in mathematics in St. Stephen's College in 1981. Along with this began her involvement in teachers’ activism as part of the broader democratic movement.

Narain also led the years-long successful struggle against the “academically deleterious” Four Year Undergraduate Programme of FYUP (2013-14). Her guidance and initiative also oversaw the persistent fight for an academically meaningful advance from the original exclusionary variant of CAS (Career Advancement Scheme) 2010 to CAS 2018. She also oversaw the resistance to attempts to compromise the constitutional provision for social justice through non- adoption of the reservation roster in conformity with the guidelines of Department of Personnel and Training, according to the statement.

Abha Dev Habib, former Executive Member, Delhi University, said, “Her fearlessness in confronting those in power had on many occasions invited disciplinary proceedings and enquiry on trumped up charges and threats of dismissal by the college and University administrations. However, she faced these adversities unfazed and more determined to fight for what is just and right.”

“What is remarkable about Nandita is her steadfast commitment to the teaching learning process. Generations of students, teachers and parents have been witness to her deep knowledge of the discipline of mathematics, her impeccable teaching, her accessibility, her willingness to debate and discuss and above all her commitment to her students. What was extraordinary was the lengths she was willing to go to preserve her commitment to students. Her classes at the Boat Club, India Gate and the lawns in front of the DU VC’s office in parallel with action programmes of teachers are the stuff of legend.”

Bhupinder Chaudhary, her colleague in DTF, said Narain’s involvement in the democratic movement did not remain confined to the University of Delhi. “As chairperson of the Joint Forum for Movement on Education she has been spearheading the fight against the neoliberal policy assault on public education and most recently against NEP. Nandita has also been actively involved in the solidarity committees that are contesting the constitutionally questionable detention of two teachers of DU, namely Sai Baba and Hany Babu.”

Vijaya Venkataraman, professor of Spanish at Germanic and Romance Studies Department, said Narain truly realised the character of a teacher and opposed sectarian violence which shook the national capital thrice. “Nandita has been in the forefront of defending constitutional imperatives. Her leading role in restoring communal harmony, promoting rehabilitation and seeking of justice during the pogroms in Delhi in 1984, Gujarat in 2002 and the recent communal riots in North East Delhi have been exemplary. Her leadership in democratic outreach for secular transformation of India is a logical culmination of her previous endeavours in this regard. During the Covid-19 pandemic, her bold and participative initiatives to provide succour to working people through mazdoor kitchens that provided both nutrition and employment are a model for critical intervention in the democratic movement.”

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