A day after dna reported about civic schools losing students over the last five years, Kanchan Srivastava spoke to Sunil Dhamne, deputy commissioner (education), of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. An account of what transpired during the meeting...
(As this reporter switched on her cell-phone recorder, Dhamne, in an unusual gesture, shouted to stop it calling it a “breach of authority” and asked her to hand over the phone to him although the recorder was immediately switched off. Still unsure, he called his peon and asked him to take away the phone outside his cabin)
The enrolment in BMC schools has dropped by 10% in five years due to lack of quality education and poor infrastructure.
That’s untrue. There’s huge demand for English-medium schools which we can’t provide as the state doesn’t give grant for them. For vernacular schools, it gives us 50% aid.
Why has enrolment in Marathi- and Gujarati-medium schools dropped by 40% in five years while it is rising in Hindi- and Urdu-medium schools?
Obviously due to population influx.
Records state only 0.4% students qualify for scholarship exams. Only 63% pass class 10 in your schools. Either your teachers don’t teach or don’t know to teach
I don’t think our teachers are bad. If a few candidates qualify IIT-JEE, it doesn’t mean that others don’t have good teachers. The pass percentage is good, considering that most kids are from poor strata.
Do you have any strategy to arrest the decline in enrolment?
This year, we have converted 250 schools into semi-English where maths and science are taught in English. We aim to convert 100% schools into semi-English by train all 9,600 teachers in the English language.
Now elementary education has been extended from class 7 to 8. How will you get extra classrooms and teachers in four months?
Many of our class 7 children go to nearby private schools for further education. So that won’t be a big issue.
Do these schools accommodate all your primary students?
We’re constructing 20 new classrooms for class 8.
Many civic schools have 70-80 children in a classroom, compromising on education quality while RTE Act mandates teacher-pupil ratio of 1:40
Areas like Govandi have this issue. Two new secondary schools are under construction there.
(After the interview, Dhamne called the peon back and instead of asking him to hand over the phone to this correspondent, he grabbed it to check if it was still recording the conversation. When he was told that the voice recorder in the phone was not so advanced that it could record even in switch-off mode and that too from outside the huge air-conditioned cabin, he continued to check it. When this reporter asked why he was so scared and that she wasn’t there to expose any scam, he was further angered but continued to check the messages and options in the cell-phone. Dhamne returned the phone only when this reporter told him firmly that now he was breaching her privacy. The incident explains how absurd, abusive and irrational a civic official could be. When a top official handing such an important portfolio is paranoid, one can understand the work culture of the whole department and why it is degraded)