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Beware, the govt shouldn't fool the FORCE of parents

04 Aug 2015 01:40am IST
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04 Aug 2015 01:40am IST

Can this govt be trusted to bring a bill that gives grants to existing and future English medium schools?

Dear Parents. With nerves of steel you took to the streets and faced heavy odds to take on the government to make your point of choice known, your choice to have English as a medium of instruction for your children in primary schools. A choice which is yours by right, a choice no one can take away, not even by elements like Arvind Bhatikar, of the BBSM, who seems to have lost all sense of proportion and logic to say “who are the parents to decide?” The answer, if he can hear, is this “They are parents, so they will decide.”

And this is what parents did. An elderly Hindu woman from Sanquelim came all the way to Azad Maidan and sang songs and coordinated all activity on the stage as Savio Lopes of FORCE lay there starving, after telling MLAs to pass the bill in this session or come for his funeral. In Bicholim, Hindu and Muslim parents outnumbered Catholic parents on the roads as they blocked traffic and said that this is for the future of their children and not to disrupt life. From Porvorim, the government received worrying information from its police officers that the crowd which blocked the National Highway Number 17 was “mixed” and there was no way the Parsekar government could pass it off as a “church backed” or a minority led agitation. Many myths were therefore busted on Friday, July 31. Parents who have only one prayer, the freedom to choose in what language their child will learn in, if they cannot afford to send them to expensive private schools; took to the streets. This is a prayer they utter in Church, a Temple or a Mosque or any place of worship including their homes. The only religion all of them follow is the religion of parenthood.

Didn’t Mr Parsekar or Mr Arvind Bhatikar or MLA Mr Vishnu Wagh – who threatened to end the monopoly of Diocesan schools – choose where their children would study and in what language? So why can’t these parents send their children to government funded schools which can teach them in English, as they can in Konkani and Marathi? Where is the conflict here except in the minds of Wagh and Bhatikar? Their comments are shameful and despicable and have no place in civilized society.

But the so called assurances given by three ministers and a group of MLAs on the basis of which Savio Lopes, the brave heart, called off his fast unto death need to be examined. Parents have to be pragmatic enough to realise that the government cannot be trusted. And here’s why.

a)    The so called assurance that the government will pass the Goa School Education (amendment) Bill 2014 passed by the cabinet on July 1, 2014, assuring that grants would be continued for existing English medium schools, was signed by a group of 9 MLAs. The tenth whose name was the list of MLAs but was not signed was of Pramod Sawant. This wasn’t a government’s promise with the Chief Minister’s stamp on it. However since the letter quotes the Chief Minister’s assurance in the Assembly, it assumes the sanctity of a solemn government assurance. But we will be failing in our duty if we do not inform you that assurances were also given on the floor of the house to send an amended Regional Plan 2021 to the people of Goa and get the villagers to vote on changes.

b)   The assurance given by the MLAs is to ensure that proceedings of the select committee of the House which is looking into all aspects of the bill based on the cabinet decision is “expedited” and the matter be placed before the house for its approval. Look at the fine print of the letter of assurance given to Savio Lopes and his colleagues in the FORCE movement. It says “the matter” will be placed before the house for its approval. It does not say the “bill” will be placed before the house. Placing the “bill” and placing the “matter” for discussion can easily be two different issues. If the government wishes to be clever, it very well will be.

c)    The bill is heavily loaded towards giving grants for schools teaching in the mother tongue at the primary level. The cabinet made a tough compromise and agreed to give grants to existing schools teaching in grounds, mainly those of the Diocesan Society of Education. Do you ever think that there will be an about turn and in a display of great magnanimity, grants will be extended to new schools? That will never be done because in the bill it is specified that the Director Education will not permit opening of any new primary school in the state until mapping of schools is carried out and the need for new schools is established.

 Parents should immediately ask for a detailed response with absolute clarity on each of the three points Herald has raised. Secondly, it must assure that the draft bill would be made public at least a month before the next assembly session to invite responses and suggestions from parents. There cannot be a repeat of the last time bill was circulated at 11 am and the discussion was scheduled for 4 pm on the very day. That farce cannot repeat itself.

 All we can say to parents is, don’t rest, don’t lose your guard, see the fine print and do not trust this government till it delivers on your demands in letter and more importantly, in spirit. May the FORCE be with you.

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