The Gujarat High Court has pulled up State Education Minister Jitubhai Vaghani for stating that even he had studied under open skies during winters and called this “shameful, shocking and disturbing.”
A division bench of Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Niral Mehta took suo motu cognizance of reports about pathetic infrastructure in government primary schools, to the extent that students had to sit in the open during chilly winter mornings.
When asked about the collapse of a school building at Vagalvad in Chhota Udepur and about children sitting out in the cold, Education Minister Jitu Vaghani said “I also studied in the open in the winter.”
The High Court called this statement as “shameful, shocking and disturbing” and sent a notice to the Gujarat Government directing an official of the rank of Additional Secretary of the Education Department or above to appear in person before the court and submit a report.
Media persons asked Vaghani about the collapsed school building when he was attending Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s virtual address at a natural farming event in Vadodara on Thursday (December 16).
The Education Minister said, “Wherever there is a demand for school rooms, procedures are being followed, sometimes the students are made to sit in the open in winter.”
“But the state government has made arrangements for seating, even in villages where there is no room. I also used to study in winter, sitting in the open as a student. I am not aware of this school but the issue should be seen in perspective.”
The High Court expressed serious concern that the school building had collapsed and children were forced to study in the open during the winter.
According to reports and videos of the situation, the students studying in the open did not have enough clothes to protect themselves from the cold.
The High Court noted that the school had collapsed due to heavy rains last year. This was also referred to the district education department, but no action was taken.
The bench took serious note of this and expressed strong resentment against the State Government and the cabinet-level education minister.
In an interim order, the court asked the government to construct the new building of the school in six months and directed an Additional Secretary level officer to appear before the court in person and submit a report. The Additional Secretary, Roads and Buildings Department, has also been directed to appear before a bench of Chief Justice Aravind Kumar in the next hearing.
Since there was no school facility in Vagalvad, teacher Mithalbhai Rathwa used to teach the children during the Covid-19 crisis by calling them at his sister’s house. Though the government has resumed offline classes, the Vegalvad school building has yet not been repaired.