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HC clears scheme to open kindergarten classes in TN anganwadi centres

Updated by admin on Thursday, May 23, 2019 02:31 PM IST

Chennai: The Madras High Court has permitted the Tamil Nadu Government scheme to commence kindergarten classes for 52,933 children in 2,381 Anganwadi centres attached to government middle schools across Tamil Nadu from June 1.

It dismissed a set of cases filed by government teachers’ associations and upheld Tamil Nadu’s decision to deploy the existing surplus secondary grade teachers to provide Montessori-based education to the kindergarten students.

Justices N. Kirubakaran and S.S. Sundar approved of the step taken by Tamil Nadu to minimize declining enrolment in Anganwadi centres due to the demand for English-medium kindergarten classes run by private schools. They also approved of the step to utilise surplus teachers instead of appointing new teachers and asked the State to commence a six-month bridge course to train the secondary grade teachers on providing Montessori-based education.

In their verdict reserved at the Madurai Bench and delivered at the principal seat in Chennai, the judges recorded the submission of Additional Advocate General K. Chellapandian that there were 54,439 Anganwadi centres in the State providing supplementary nutrition and free non-formal education to children between the age of two to five. Of these, 2,381 centres were located in the premises of government middle schools in 32 districts.

The government found a steady drop in enrolment in these Anganwadi centres and hence decided to begin kindergarten classes there on a pilot basis for three years. It sanctioned  Rs. 7.73 crore in December last to provide four sets of uniforms, one set of footwear, learning materials such as crayons and colour pencils and course completion certificates to the kids. Besides, woollen sweaters and rain boots would be given to those in hilly areas.

The government decided to utilise the services of 5,934 secondary grade teachers in government-aided primary and middle schools and 1,979 secondary teachers in government and panchayat union schools. These teachers were found to be surplus due to reduction in student strength in those schools, while the government spent Rs 445 crore per annum towards their salaries.

The court was assured that the service conditions of the teachers would not be altered in any way on account of their deployment to teach kindergarten students. It would not be considered as a demotion. The National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE) too had given a go-ahead for such deployment after it was brought to its notice that diplomas in nursery education was not offered by many institutes in the State.

The NCTE had approved of utilization of the services of existing secondary grade teachers by imparting necessary training in Montessori education and only a formal nod was awaited from the Centre. The judges said: “Teachers are like Gods and they cannot question each and every decision taken by the government in public interest, especially in the interest of children belonging to economically weaker sections.

“It has become a fashion for government teachers, who are paid a handsome salary, to rush to the court for each and every decision taken by the government... Before coming to Court, they should have thought of the interest of the poor sections of the society and the decline in enrolment in Anganwadi centres and government schools.” The judges also blamed the government as well as the teachers for the decline in enrolment in government schools.

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