Citing reducing number of students, over the last few years Nagpur Municipal Corporation has closed down as many as 101 schools of the city situated in areas like Shankar Nagar, Rana Pratap Nagar, Vivekanand Nagar,Somalwada, Futala,Sitabaldi, Mahal, Maskasath, Shanti Nagar and Golibar square.
In fact all the densely populated and old areas of the city seem to have been covered in the closure of schools which have been teaching city students since many decades now.
The strength of the students has been reduced from 55,000 to only 28,000 in primary and secondary schools of the city. The number of schools has also come down from 266 to 165 including 137 primary and 28 Secondary schools.
Which in effect means that for a population of almost 40 lakhs, Nagpur citizens have an option of only 28 post 5th standard schools to send their children to!
Just whose children went to these school anyway? Surprising answer – all of Nagpur!
Though the public perception is that only poor people living in Nagpur slums send their kids to study here is wrong.
Such NMC run schools in the past have produced politicians, journalists, IAS officers and even artists. Not to mention lawyers, doctors etc. M.G. Vaidya, Justice Dhabe, Baba Mohril are some proud pass outs of Corporation schools.
People who taught in such schools were really looked upto by society. They were proud of their profession too and intensely devoted to their students and their schools.
Two such teachers were Shamrao Laghave and his wife Suman Laghave. Both are retired now and live in Mahal. Shamrao is so proud of his glorious professional life as a Corporation School teacher that he has even written a book on it.
Then and now – the idealistic age of Education gave way to Commercial
As Shamrao told me, ” the best Corporations schools were begun in the city under the British rule. There was no politics in education, imparting education was considered a very noble thing to do. So when a need was felt for starting a school in a new area, the prosperous citizens of that area would actually come forward to donate land for the purpose. Like the Sitabaldi public school is still known as Buty school as land was given by Butys. Other families like Dalvi and some Parsee and Christian families also donated land.”
This idealistic phase continued for decades after independence too. Right till 2000 dawned in fact.
Primary Schools were a monopoly of City Corporation
Till 2-3 decades ago, running primary schools i.e. from ‘Balwadi’ (nursery) to 4th standard was a monopoly of NMC! There were two very laudable objectives behind this:
Everyone should be able to afford sending their child to school, since primary education was almost free in these NMC run schools.
Rich or poor, every child would get the same quality of education. Also, children from different walks of life studying together increased understanding and amity between people of different religions, communities, castes and class.
The only exception of ‘private schools’ were some missionary schools run by foreign, Christian missions.
The Corporation schools were so many that there was a healthy competition between them about who produced better scholars and who better athletes! Many Corporation school teachers went on to win President of India’s gold medals for best teachers pan India.
In 1959 JAWAHARLAL NEHRU attended a program in Nagpur put up by students of all Corporation Schools. It was held in Kasturchand Park and as Mr. Laghave remembers ” the air was agog with excitement among students and their parents. The P.M. was coming! They had to put up a great show.”
Sumantai, recalls that she joined as a junior teacher and as she rose in ranks to become Head Mistress her sense of responsibility too went up.
“The Durganagar school where I became Principal had a big play ground where teachers taught various games like kabbadi and kho kho to students after school was over. I also used to stay back and go home only after not just the students, but the other teachers had also left. Mine was the last vehicle ( moped) to leave the school ground.”
NO ONE WANTED TO SEND THEIR CHILDREN TO PRIVATE SECONDARY SCHOOLS EITHER
Private players were allowed to start schools 5th standard onward. This was when English was introduced in the curriculum and the focus was more academic.
NMC also had these schools of course and most of their children preferred to stay on in their own schools.
Believe it or not the infrastructure was better, standard of education was better and teachers were more dedicated!
Shamrao remembers an instance sometime in the 1970s when a couple, who were both employed in a private school visited him with a strange request.
“Please send some students from your school to our private school! It will not make a difference for you if one of your sections closes down. For us, not having enough students means loss of jobs – loss of livelihood. Help us out please.”
At the zenith of the NMC school era, there were 350 schools, almost a lakh students and 2500 teachers.
Not only were NMC ward officers and corporators committed to successful running of the schools in their respective areas, there used to be a very strong personality working as EDUCATION OFFICER to supervise over the running of the schools and efficiency and sincerity of all teachers.
“There was a Mrs. Joshi who was so strict that teachers would quake at her name. When private nursery schools opened – illegally – in some areas, she ensured they were closed down and the delinquent NMC officer proferred his resignation for dereliction of duty.
How things changed… continued in part 2 tomorrow.