Nagpur: The glorious zenith of NMC run primary schools was when the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, ‘Nehru Chacha’ to children was Chief Guest at a program of primary school kids. This was not by mere chance – all NMC Schools together then would celebrate an ‘Education week’ at the end of the year where all kinds of competitions were held for school: sports, singing, handicrafts etc. etc. and participating in them used to be a matter of prestige for not just the students but their parents as well.
Sometime parents would have Corporators bring pressure to include their children by replacing others and the Education Officer would keep a hawk’s eye to see no such ‘nepotism’ was employed. Most efficient Education officers were always women, notes a retired teacher.
This situation where NMC schools attracted that kind of patronage continued well into 1980s also. President’s award winning teacher Shamrao Laghave mentions in his book a 14th November children’ day celebration in which guests attending were Cine stars.
Asha Parekh and Faroque Sheikh, and among politicians were Dr. Shrikant Jichkar, state Minister and Vilasrao Deshmukh. Under the training of famed Music Director Bal Deshmukh, 50,000 students sang patriotic songs in all Indian languages for 3 hours from 8.30 a.m. to 11.30 and the audience, including persons mentioned above sat listening with rapt attention. What is significant is that when it came to education, and schools run by Corporation there was no political differentiation : Congress, BJP, Communist party, leaders of all parties took active part co operating with each other. Girish Vyas, BJP Corporator then was also part of the above celebration and planning thereof.
So when did things begin to change?
Two factors contributed to the unfavourable change, where NMC schools were concerned:
Parents developed an attraction of sending their children to ‘convents’ and English medium schools. There were a few run by Christian missionaries like SFS, BCS, St. Johns etc. for boys and St.Joseph’s convent, St. Ursula etc. for girls but they were too inadequate to fulfill the growing demand for English medium keeping pace with the increase in population too.
An Education officer,( with commercial gain in mind?), began giving permission to private primary schools too. He was castigated and severely reprimanded later, but the Pandora’s box had been opened.
Private schools immediately brought in the era of the ‘profit motive’ in education. They charged more from parents, paid teachers less and pocketed the ‘savings’. Many of these schools soon managed to get government grants too and became ‘aided’ schools, which means govt. paid for their running expenses.
Gradually, NMC schools began losing their allure and their prime position.
“Another factor that hampered us was NMC school teachers started being misused by the govt. machinery itself. We were always ‘exploited’ for election duty, conducting census and other such non-academic work” remembers Joshi guruji. Another retired teacher.
On the part of the teachers also politics seems to have crept in. Since teachers were also MNC employees, and formed a large contingent, they formed a political group called Navshakti mitra mandal of which Atal Bahadur was a leader. This group contested elections in MNC employee banks forming panels.
School premises diverted for other use
Thus began the trend of teachers themselves becoming politicians. Today you find many govt. schools in small towns and villages not working properly because teachers running them are friends of local MLAs and busy in political ‘work’.
As students started getting diverted to private schools, the huge tracts of land on which MNC schools stand, and the school buildings too began being diverted for other uses.
Some were converted to clinics and hospitals; some just became derelict vacant premises misused by anti social elements.
There is a 135 years old Corporation school called ‘Aditwar Darwaza’ in Mahal, founded in 1881, that is being used today as a hostel for security service deployed to protect RSS premises in Mahal!
No wonder then that today NMC is formally closing down schools in hundreds.
The land itself, so lovingly donated by people earlier, is very valuable property.
Imagine the money to be made by selling it to builders for markets, malls, apartment complex and other uses?
When education becomes a business educational institutes’ land can lead to more business too!
—Sunita Mudaliar (Associate Editor)