There has been a drop in enrolment at civic schools in the city over the past few years, prompting severe criticism of the quality of teaching at these educational establishments. However, a senior representative of the teachers body has defended them, saying they are carrying out a challenging task under circumstances that have been made more difficult by the civic administration.
According to official information available, in 2007-08 there were 4,20,440 students enrolled at schools run by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). That number dropped to 3,85,657 in 2012-13, a more than eight per cent drop. This, while the overall expenditure has risen.
The BMC is only one of a few civic bodies that is required to compulsorily provide primary education and this responsibility is fixed under the BMC Act. It has about 11,500 teachers at its 1,174 schools.
Ramesh Joshi, president of the Brihanmumbai Mahapalika Shikshak Sabha, believes that a systematic campaign is being conducted against civic teachers and schools by managements of private schools and certain NGOs with an aim to grab the civic schools.
“In fact, we have filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court against this surreptitious privatisation of BMC schools,” Joshi (69) said on Wednesday. “Today, 2,440 classrooms belonging to the BMC have been leased out to NGOs and private organisations, that too for a pittance. If a large number of classrooms are leased out to NGOs then it is natural that the number of students on the rolls will decline.”
He pointed out that the teachers were well qualified and were either D.Ed or B.Ed degree holders. “This is not the case with many private schools where unqualified teachers are employed. You might not know that many applicants for teachers’ posts at civic schools who have been rejected, find jobs in private schools,” he said.
Joshi said that the teachers were also well paid. A BMC teacher received an average Rs30,000 a month and this was better than what teachers earned at private schools.
He stressed that while it was easy to criticise the teachers, the critics did not appreciate the fact that these teachers catered to students from the poorest class who did not receive proper nutrition. “It is an uphill task and the civic teachers are doing their best,” Joshi said.