The education fraternity in Punjab appears to have a mixed response on the state government’s order to rename the schools which are based on caste. While some believe that the move is a way forward to help eradicate caste-based discrimination, others say more steps are required to bring an actual change. “Schools in Punjab and the society at large do face caste-based discrimination but it is better than before and will improve further gradually,” said Amandeep Kaur, deputy state director, Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan.
Punjab has around 20,000 government schools which will come under a scrutiny belt of district education officers and elementary education department, who have been asked to submit a report on schools with caste-based names running under their jurisdiction.
State Education Minister Harjot Singh Bains on Friday had said that the administration has taken cognizance of the matter and is determined to do away with any system which promotes caste based- segregation. The minister added that such names negatively impact students’ self esteem and more so parents refrain from enroling their children in government schools due to the same.
According to the Punjab government’s e-PunjabSchools website the state has thousands of such schools running across 23 districts and 146 blocks. For example, there are schools such as GPS Thullewal, GSSS Tarkhan Wala, GHS Nailwala, and G Nanak PB SCH Beer Behman, among others whose names represent communities/ villages which are identified by the caste groups living there.
Mohinder Pal, a teacher, at the Government High School Moujia, located in the Mansa district, claimed that most government schools in Punjab have Scheduled Castes and Dalit students. He said that simply changing the name of schools won’t make much difference. Another teacher from Punjab on the condition of anonymity said “People who belong to upper castes doesn’t find it fine to enrol their wards in government schools among lower class students.”
Demographically, Punjab’s population consists of around 31% Other Backward Castes (OBC), 31.9% Scheduled Castes (SC), and 33% other casts which includes Jat Sikh, Kayastha, Brahmin, Bania, Khatri, and Rajputs.
Of-late, the Punjab government is believed to have introduced several initiatives to better the education system in the state. However, a Right to Information (RTI) query filed by activist Jai Gopal Dhiman has revealed that as many as 23.5% of the total government elementary schools in Hoshiarpur district have a single teacher, while seven percent of schools have no teacher at all. Ironically, Hoshiarpur is believed to have the highest literacy rate in Punjab.
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