Lucknow, Nov. 11: When elections are round the corner, politics can find a way into school classrooms too in Uttar Pradesh.
Chief minister Mayawati today did away with a message by the Prime Minister which was supposed to be read out in all government schools on the birth anniversary of India’s first education minister Abul Kalam Azad, being observed as National Education Day. What children in the heartland state heard instead was a message from Mayawati that mentioned Dalit icon B.R. Ambedkar, not Azad.
Mayawati called Ambedkar an architect of education in modern India for guaranteeing free and compulsory education till the age of 14 in the Constitution.
Her message, read out to school kids today, said: “I too had studied in an ordinary government primary school like you…. I went to school because my grandfather Mangala Sen was a man of progressive thoughts. Along with his grandsons he sent his granddaughters to school as well.” She may have had in mind the 59.26 per cent female literacy rate in her state when the proportion of boys getting education is 78.48 per cent.
The Prime Minister’s speech, which was sent to the states about a week ago, mentioned his education in a village. But Manmohan Singh also said education was a “magical” thing that enabled “us to rediscover ourselves”. He mentioned that he had studied by an earthen lamp and walked miles to reach school.
Mayawati, on the other hand, mentioned she had done “better than my brothers in academics” and today “I am the chief minister of India’s most populous state for the fourth time”.
“Today, if all children have a right to free and compulsory education till the age of 14, it is only because of Baba Ambedkar who made a provision in the Indian Constitution for free and compulsory education.”
Asked about Mayawati’s move to junk the Prime Minister’s message, Subodh Srivastava, the Congress’s chief spokesperson in Uttar Pradesh, said: “Mayawati is merely playing cheap politics over education in an election year.” Uttar Pradesh will vote early next year.
BSP spokesperson S.P. Maurya saw nothing wrong. “The chief minister has every right to send her message to state-run schools but in primary schools run by the Centre, the Prime Minister’s message can be read out.”