“We don’t know what is going to happen for our first paper. Can someone tell me whether I should prepare for Marathi or the next paper?” asked a student of SIES College in Sion.
Teachers not being paid their sixth salary, schools not being given their non-salary grants, price rise and a demand for compulsory pensions for the entire workforce in India — these issues now have the 5.5 lakh Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) students of Maharashtra in a fix, as their first paper, scheduled for February 21, is coinciding with a two-day, all-India bandh called on February 20 and 21.
The bandh has been called by trade unions from across the country protesting against price rise and demanding pensions and insurance for all workers, among other issues. Drivers of trains, autorickshaws and buses as well as government employees in Maharashtra are supporting the bandh along with teachers and other non-teaching employees from schools.
Students who have taken up languages such as Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Sindhi or other
regional languages as a subject will be affected by the bandh as most of them commute by public transport and will be unable to reach to their exam centres.
Confused students are approaching their schools and calling the state board helpline, but both are clueless and have been of no help.
A Marathi teacher at Sanskar Dham Junior College at Goregaon, Rajendra Shinde said “Over 600 students from my college are asking whether their first paper will be postponed or how they will travel to their exam centre.”
The Maharashtra Rajya Shikshan Sanstha, an umbrella body of 14,000 schools in Maharashtra (30% schools in Mumbai), has already boycotted the exam by not lending their premises as centres for the board exams. They are asking for a release of non-salary grants for which the next round of talks are scheduled for February 18.
Even with the future of lakhs of students at stake, all unions are adamant about boycotting the exam, but the state government employees association has requested for the postponement of the first paper to avoid inconveniencing students.
Anil Deshmukh, general secretary of the Junior College Teachers’ Association which has 60,000 members in Maharashtra, said, “To help the students relax, we have suggested that the chief minister immediately decide on postponing the paper.”
Even though all this has left the board in a tight spot, chairman of the board Sarjerao Jadhav has taken a tough stand. “We have no scope to reschedule the February 21 paper. So students should not be confused. It’s the government’s duty to try and convince transport unions to ply.”
While school education minister Rajendra Darda could not be reached, additional chief secretary of the school education department JS Saharia said, “There is enough time. The department will take a call soon.”