Rajat Sharma

What did Modi do for education in Gujarat?

akbPrime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday clearly indicated that the Gujarat assembly elections will be fought on the issue of development. Modi said, those who are abusing and defaming Gujarat, and raking up caste and communal issues at the time of elections, need to be taught a lesson by the voters. “Gujaratis will square up their accounts at the time of elections”, he added.

Modi also made it clear that his party would place its performance card, on schools, hospitals, houses, roads, jobs and business, before the people before seeking their votes. Modi launched the ambitious Mission Schools of Excellence with an outlay of Rs 10,000 crore. He also spoke about indigenisation of defence sector while opening India’s largest ever Defence Expo. In Rajkot, he handed over keys of new low-cost houses to beneficiaries.

Social media was agog when visuals came of Modi sitting in a smart classroom with school children. AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and Delhi deputy CM Manish Sisodia reacted by saying, Modi going to a school and sitting with children is indication of their victory. Kejriwal said, AAP had made education a key issue in Gujarat polls, and it has forced the Prime Minister to go to a school.

Under Mission Schools of Excellence, 50,000 new classrooms will be built in government schools of Gujarat and more than one lakh classes will be converted into ‘smart classrooms’. Modi said, since 5G telecom service has been launched, it will help ‘smart classrooms and smart teaching’. Modi himself sat with the children to experience a ‘smart classroom teaching’.

Soon after the visuals of Modi appeared on social media, AAP targeted the Prime Minister. Kejriwal said, Modi sitting with school children is a victory for Aam Aadmi Party. He said, Modi did not go on his own, he was forced to go to the school room. Kejriwal said, he was happy that most of the parties and their leaders are today speaking about education of children. ‘This is our greatest achievement’, he said. Kejriwal said, since his party has expertise in improving the conditions of schools, if the PM wants, his party could help improve the condition of schools not only in Gujarat, but across India.

Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, campaigning in Gujarat, claimed that the conditions of Delhi government schools have vastly improved. He promised to improve the conditions of government schools in Gujarat. Sisodia said, Modi is copying our efforts by going to school and sitting with children. He said, “Modi was late in going to school. Had he gone to schools 27 years ago, the face of government schools in Gujarat would have changed.”

Kejriwal and Sisodia commented on a single picture of Modi sitting with children, but they did not disclose the full facts. On the occasion of launch of Mission Schools of Excellence, Modi wanted to meet seven ‘special’ youths. I am saying ‘special’ because, it was Modi, as chief minister, who had got these youths admitted to schools during their childhood, as part of his ‘Shaala Mahotsav’ programme.

The programme was launched 20 years ago in June, 2003. Under this programme, children were given free education. Modi, as CM, personally went to the villages in the summer heat of June and persuaded elders to send their children, particularly daughters, to school. Modi got several tribal children admitted to schools. The children, whom Modi held by their fingers and took them to schools, are now adults.

Modi said, “In 2003, I went to tribal villages. The temperature was between 40 to 45 deg Celsius. The dates were June 13, 14 and 15. I went to those villages where the elders were not sending their children to schools. The villagers thought I had come for begging. I told them, if you want to give me something, promise me that you will send your children to schools. The children, whom I had taken to schools by holding their fingers, are now grown-ups. Today I want to congratulate their parents that they trusted in me and sent their children to school.”

All the seven ex-students hail from Dedhiyapara area of Narmada district. Their names are: Dilip Bhai, Kalpana Ben, Dilip Kumar, Aruna Ben, Kamlesh Bhai, Krishna Ben, and Vimla Ben. After completing their education, they are now employed. Among them, one is in police, another is a junior assistant, and a third is a bank employee.

India TV reporter Nirnay Kapoor spoke to the seven ex-students after the Prime Minister’s programme. They said, the face of schools in Gujarat has now completely changed. When they were children, the schools were not good, nor did their parents have money to send them to private schools. ‘Our condition improved after Modi arranged free education for us and improved the condition of schools’, one of them said.

Modi got these children admitted to schools, way back in 2003. Aam Aadmi Party was formed in 2013, ten years later. Kejriwal alleges that Modi copied his idea about better schooling. Sisodia claims that Modi went to a government school for the first time on Wednesday.

Let me tell you, Modi did not go to any school on Wednesday. He was launching Mission Schools of Excellence, and as part of this mission, classrooms in government schools will now be converted into ‘smart classroom’. The place where Modi sat with a handful of students was not a school, but a model of a ‘smart classroom’.

Gujarat BJP leaders showed 2003 photographs of Modi visiting government schools as part of “Shaala Utsav” (School Festival). It was Modi’s idea at that time. Modi’s elder brother Somabhai Modi said, “during our childhood, there was a school in our village. The principal himself used to go to homes and bring children to the school and got them admitted. The principal used to take out a procession of students with their parents in the village, and tell them the importance of education. The principal got Narendra Modi admitted to the school. So the idea of ‘Shaala Utsav’ was Modi’s.”

As a result of ‘Shaala Utsav’ programme launched in 2003 by Modi, students enrolment rate in government schools went up by 24 per cent by 2020-21. There was a 19 per cent decline in the dropout rate of students between Class One to Class eight. Modi also launched ‘Kanya Kelvani Mahotsav’ encouraging girls to go to schools. This brought a steep decline in dropout rate of girl students.

Between 2001 and 2021, more than 1,37,000 classrooms were built in Gujarat. In the last 20 years, Gujarat government has appointed more than two lakh teachers. A district monitoring centre called ‘Vidya Sameeksha Kendra’ was set up to monitor the educational progress of each student. Gujarat is far ahead in digitization of education as part of new education policy of 2020. Government school teachers took more than 2.5 crore online classes in Gujarat during the Covid pandemic.

Gujarat is the first state, where government has set up an Edutech company that provides online classes, through G-Shala App. This app was downloaded more than 30 lakh times. As a result of improvement in government schools, more than 11 lakh students left private schools and joined government schools in the last four years.

A controversy was sought to be created about Gujarat schools. The amount of work that Modi contributed for the betterment of schools needs no visuals or surveys. Students and their parents in Gujarat openly speak about the changes that have taken place. There is no basis in Kejriwal’s argument that Modi has ‘copied’ his Delhi model. The fact is that Modi did not go to any school on Wednesday. He was launching the model of a School of Excellence, so that the people of Gujarat can watch how a ‘smart school’ works. There is no question of copying any model.

Under the Mission Schools of Excellence, nearly 20,000 schools in Gujarat will be upgraded with world-class facilities. These include 15,000 government primary schools and 5,000 secondary and higher secondary government schools. These schools will have world-class digital facilities, and there will be ‘smart classrooms’. For each grade, there will be a separate teacher and separate classroom facility. Apart from these 20,000 schools, there are schools that lack facilities, and they will also benefit.

Modi began improving the condition of schools in Gujarat at a time when Kejriwal left his job in Income Tax department and started his NGO. It would have been better if Kejriwal had spoken about how his Delhi model has improved the conditions in government schools. To tell people that Modi’s school of excellence scheme is inspired by Kejriwal, will hardly be accepted by common voters in Gujarat.

Nobody can say that Modi does not work. He was chief minister of Gujarat for 13 years, and his performance is there for all to see. It was his performance that made Modi a big leader. Modi has been Prime Minister for the last eight years and he has never lagged in his performance in any manner.

On Wednesday, in Rajkot, he handed over keys of 1,144 flats of a residential society to poor beneficiaries. Spread over 10 acres are 11 blocks, each having 13 storeys. The 13-storeyed buildings were readied in 26 days. Each building has 104 two-BHK flats.

The society has a health centre, an Anganwadi, a shopping centre, a park of elderly people, a playing area for children, and a common area which has solar lighting. The reception that Modi got in Rajkot was huge. It took more than half an hour for Modi to cover the 1.5 km distance from airport to Race Course Ground, as thousands of residents turned up to welcome their leader.

Under the Lighthouse Project in Rajkot, each 2 BHK flat costing Rs 10 lakhs was given to only those lower income group people whole annual income is less than Rs 3 lakhs. Out of Rs 10 lakh cost, Rs 6.5 lakh is given as government subsidy, while the remaining Rs 3.5 lakh was made available to beneficiaries as low-interest home loan. Five flats were kept reserved in each building for physically handicapped people.

By providing cheap housing for the poor, Modi has sought to shut the mouths of those who have been alleging that his government does not work for the betterment of the poorer sections. Modi always tells his party leaders that ‘it is your work on the ground that matters, whatever lies others may spread about you. Such lies will have no effect’. The people on the ground know who is telling the truth, and who is lying.

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