Press statement on NGOisation of education

December 15, 2013

(Member, All India Forum for Right to Education)
13th December 2013

A Press Conference was organised by the Shiksha Adhikar Manch, Bhopal on 13th December 2013 on the issue of the increasingly alarming role of the internationally funded Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and their state-funded counterparts in the educational system of the country. The Press Conference was jointly addressed by the educationist Dr. Anil Sadgopal (Member, Presidium, All India Forum for Right to Education), Sh. Abdul Jabbar (Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan), Ms. Jyotsana Milan (Reputed Hindi Litterateur), Com. Shailendra Shailey (Communist Party of India), Com. Ashish Struggle (All India Students Federation) and Com. Vijay Kumar (Revolutionary Youth Federation of India).

The Shiksha Adhikar Manch, Bhopal, along with fraternal organisations in Madhya Pradesh, has been building a sustained campaign in the state for the past four years as part of the All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) against the much-hyped Right to Education Act, 2009 (henceforth called RTE Act). This Act is cynically designed to destroy the vast government school system and convert India’s school education (and now higher education as well) into a profit-oriented market for global trading. The immediate context of this Press Conference is the attempt in recent weeks by a whole range of internationally funded NGOs to bring the Madhya Pradesh-based NGOs on a common platform with a view to distort and confuse the emerging public discourse on the Constitutional vision of Right to Education. These internationally funded NGOs held their first meeting in Bhopal on 15th November 2013 in a luxurious hotel. The Shiksha Adhikar Manch, Bhopal organised a lively protest outside the hotel on the same date and raised slogans and distributed handbills (see attachments). The second meeting in Bhopal is scheduled to be held on 14th December 2013. Hence this Press Conference is organised to expose the dubious role of these powerful well-oiled NGOs supported by the global (including domestic) capital.

Media’s attention was drawn to the following salient points:

Ø Under the rising pressure of global capital and its agencies (such as the World Bank, IMF, DFID and others) since the formal beginning of globalisation in 1991, the central and state governments have been pushing the twin agenda of incrementally crippling government school education system with a view to ultimately dismantle it and thereby opening the doors for privatisation and commercialisation. In pursuance of this neo-liberal agenda, the government introduced misconceived schemes like DPEP and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) designed to downgrade the state-funded school system such that even the poor sections of society would hesitate to send their children in these inferior schools. The credibility of government schools has thus been eroded in order to promote uninhibited profiteering by private school market. The RTE Act is also part of the government’s neo-liberal agenda to first deteriorate the quality of the government school system and then replace it by profit-oriented private school system that excludes the masses. Indeed, instead of giving the children the Right to free and good quality education, the so-called RTE Act gives the Right of unregulated profiteering through education to the corporate houses and their pet NGOs.

Ø Ironically, the NGOs, supported by the same global (including domestic) capital that has pushed the neoliberal policies of dismantling India’s state-funded school system and commercialising school education, have now started giving their dubious call for the farcical ‘improvement’ of the government schools! In this scenario, it is obvious for the left and progressive democratic organisations of Madhya Pradesh to probe the hidden agenda of these NGOs and their real game plan.

Ø It is noteworthy that, in the name of apparently advocating for ‘improvement’ of government schools, these NGOs demand ‘proper implementation’ of the RTE Act, while cleverly ignoring the fact that the neo-liberal RTE Act itself has,
§ continued and legalised the discriminatory, unequal and stratified education system due to which the children of the majority of the dalits, tribals, OBCs, minorities, disabled and other marginalised groups have been long deprived of education of equitable quality;
§ downgraded the minimum norms and standards of the government schools, thereby ensuring that they always remain as second-grade, if not the last, option of schooling;
§ facilitated transfer of public funds, which should have been used for improving government schools, to private schools under the pretext of providing quality schooling to a miniscule percentage of children of the deprived sections through the farcical ‘25% quota’ provision; this is clearly a provision of Public Private Partnership (PPP);
§ legalised engagement of government school-teachers in a whole range of non-teaching tasks while the teachers of private schools, free from any such legal compulsion, are allowed to teach regularly;
§ violated the ‘National Curriculum Framework, 2005’ by snatching away the Right of children to learn fine arts, music, games & sports and computers, while these facilities are available to the children of well-to-do families on payment in private schools;
§ permitted government to run schools even without Headmasters and without providing a teacher for every classroom;
§ facilitated private schools to reap unrestrained profits through unregulated fee hikes, the profits being entirely exempt from income-tax (ironically, while the teachers of private schools are subject to income-tax, their owners earning huge profits are exempted from the same);
§ opened doors for lock-out/merger of government schools as well as their auction/outsourcing to corporate houses and their NGOs (this is already happening in several states at an alarming pace).

Despite these entrenched features of the RTE Act that have led to steady decline of the government school system, the internationally funded NGOs demand its ‘proper implementation’. WHY? Is it so because the children of these NGO-wallahs no more study in the government schools? Or is it because these NGOs are nourished by the same global capital that, through its agencies such as World Bank, IMF, DFID and others, has ensured dismantling of the government school system during the past 25 years and turned school education into a highly profitable market.

The internationally funded NGOs (and their state-funded counterparts as well) employ such ways and means that seemingly facilitate some ad hoc short-term relief measures (‘lollipops’) and then compromise on critical issues in order to safeguard the long-term interests of the global capital, thereby protecting the latter from any radical outburst of the masses. Thus, in education, instead of calling for an end to all forms of commercialisation and PPP in order to build a Common Education System from ‘KG to PG’, these NGOs plead for charity on the part of the profit-making elite schools to provide education to a handful of deprived class children under the ‘25% quota’ under PPP! These NGOs also attempt to mislead genuine people’s organisations by their laboriously contrived logic and false propaganda. It is precisely due to this neo-liberal agenda that the global capital finances such NGOs in its own selfish interest.

In sharp contrast, the Shiksha Adhikar Manch, Bhopal has taken a consistent and principled stand against the RTE Act for the last four years. The people of Bhopal have twice publically burnt copies of the RTE Act to express their uncompromising opposition to it. Instead of its farcical ‘proper implementation’, they have demanded that this neo-liberal Act should be repealed forthwith and replaced by another law that will establish a fully state-funded and free ‘Common School System’ from pre-primary to Class XII – the only historic option to ensure democratic and secular education of equitable quality for all sections of society. Any attempt by the internationally funded NGOs or their state-funded counterparts, acting on behalf of the global capitalist forces, to mislead the public mind will be resisted resolutely.

Joint Secretary, Shiksha Adhikar Manch, Bhopal
Madhya Pradesh, India
Mo.: 9301569380

Associate Organizations:
All India Revolutionary Students Organization (AIRSO), Bhopal; All India Students Federation (AISF), Bhopal; All India Youth Federation (AIYF), Bhopal; Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan;
City Trade Union Council, Bhopal; Citizens Welfare Forum, Bhopal;
Madhya Pradesh Bank Employees Association; Milli Council for Education, Bhopal; Muskaan, Bhopal;
Revolutionary Youth Federation of India (RYFI), Bhopal