Every day counts as Board exams are scheduled for March

Thousands of students, especially those in Class X and XII, from rural areas of Kerala fear for their future as their teachers and staff in 14 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs) in Kerala and one in Mahe have joined their counterparts across the country in an indefinite strike from February 7.

More than 550 Navodaya teachers and staff across Kerala (around 7,000 in India) are demanding, among other things, a transparent transfer policy and Central Civil Service Pension 1972 for those who joined duties before January 2004.

“Everyone in the family, including my son, is very anxious about what can be done,”said James Thomas, father of a Class XII student in one of the JNVs. “We may have to send him for tuitions as he is at home since February 7 and the Board exams are near,” he said.

The more immediate reason for parents’ worry is that CBSE has scheduled its annual problem solving assessment examination on February 16 for Classes 9 and 11 students. Ten per cent of the marks obtained at the PSA exam counts in the final examinations in Classes X and XII.

Though the teachers initially promised to keep Class X and XII students facing Board exams in March in the Vidyalayas, there was opposition to the move. One of the teachers, who did not want to be named, said the Union government had promised three years ago to address the issues raised by union of teachers and staff. Among the demands raised by them are regularisation and fixing of working hours and the institution of a Joint Consultative Mission with staff and teachers’ union as part of it.

“I am tense and worried about my son’s future as it is the time for CBSE Board exams,” said Rajan Mangoth, father of a Class XI student. “The school is closed and my son is at home since February 7, ” said the parent.

Around 7,000 students in Kerala study in the fully residential Navodaya Vidyalayas, conceived nearly three decades ago by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi as a means of getting bright students from India’s rural areas into mainstream academics.

JNVs admit children from Class 6 onwards after they pass an entrance examination. Thirty per cent of the seats are reserved for girls; and the children pay no fee for their courses of study except boys in the general category from families above poverty line, who pay Rs. 200 a month from class IX onwards.

“We are on duty from 5.30 a. m. to 11.30 p. m. on a normal working day,” said a teacher in one of the Navodaya schools, speaking for the Joint Action Committee of Staff Associations.

A senior official, looking after JNV functioning in South India, told The Hindu over telephone from Hyderabad that principals of JNVs had been asked to recall students for their PSA exams on Saturday. He is optimistic that the talks now in progress in New Delhi between JNV top brass and representatives of the striking employees will resolve the issues raised by teachers and staff.