Report by a correspondent of Mazdoor Ekta Lehar
The All-India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) organised a protest demonstration at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on 3rd February 2024. More than a thousand people from all over the country, representing over 100 students’ organisations, teachers’ organisations, parents’ organisations as well organisations fighting for the rights of people, participated.
The protestors demanded that the government withdraw the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 and the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2023. They demanded universal, fully state-funded, uniform and good quality education, from pre-primary to post-graduation. They also demanded regularization and security of tenure for all contract teachers, an end to the privatization and commercialization of education in all forms, an end to the spread of communal, divisive and unscientific ideas through the education system, etc.
Banners and placards at the protest site bore slogans highlighting these demands, such as: “We demand uniform education for all!”, “Education is our fundamental right!”, “Unite and fight for a uniform education system for all!”, “Withdraw NEP 2020!”, “Stop privatization and commercialization of education!”, “Guarantee regularization of all contract teachers!”, “Ensuring universal, good quality and free education is the duty of the state!”, and so on.
Representatives of various participating organisations addressed the protest demonstration. They pointed out that the public education system is being systematically destroyed. The central budget for education has been repeatedly cut down. Universities are being forced to take loans to run their courses, which has led to the mushrooming of “self-financing” (i.e. private) courses, with massive fee hikes across the country. The dreams of getting education, of the vast majority of youth from the toiling and oppressed sections, are being dashed to the ground. Privatisation and commercialization of education must be stopped, they asserted.
Teachers from many parts of the country spoke up against the imposition of a central education policy on all states and the introduction of all-India common entrance examinations such as NEET, JEE and CUET, which are detrimental to the aspirations of youth from different regions of the country.
They demanded an increase in the government’s budget for education, good quality neighbourhood schools, instruction in the mother tongue, transparency in the recruitment of teachers and an end to the contract system of hiring teachers as well as non-teaching staff. They demanded better facilities for differently-abled students.
Student representatives from various organisations also condemned the attacks of the government on the right to protest, in defence of the rights of students, youth and other oppressed sections.