Students from local schools across the city on Friday took to the streets to express solidarity with their teachers who have been demanding exemption from election duties. The agitation was organised by the local wing of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and schoolchildren of more than 30 schools from the city, besides members of Parent Teacher Association (PTA), participated. The students sang the national anthem during the protest.
Suhas Deshpande, a teacher with Ramanbaug School in Shaniwarpeth said that the government was roping in teachers for poll duties despite a Supreme Court directive against it. The apex court in the Election Commission of India (ECI) vs St Marys School, Delhi, had held that teaching staff shall be put on roll revision and election duty only during holidays and non-teaching days. It held that teachers should not ordinarily be put on duty on teaching days and during teaching hours. The ruling also held that under the right to education, a fundamental right with regard to Article 21A of the constitution, it is obligatory on the part of the state to ensure that students are not deprived of it, he said.
More than 200 teachers from different local government-aided schools have been engaged by the election authorities for work related to election preparations since October 1. These are mostly teachers from Marathi medium schools.
The State Directorate of Education (Primary) had also sent a letter to the School Education department in October last year demanding exemption of teachers from election duties.
Speaking to Newsline, Ajay Shinde, city vice-president of the MNS said the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) of schoolchildren, mandated in the RTE Act was getting badly affected due to teachers getting entangled in election work. It was also causing other disadvantages. For the last few months, we have been demanding that teachers be exempted from poll duties, but our demand is falling on deaf ears. Todays protest involving students was a part of our efforts to intensify our agitation, he said, adding that an appeal was made to schools to observe black day on Saturday against the State governments indifference to loss students are facing on account of teachers getting involved in election duties.