Upper House Elections: As BJP, Congress & JD(S) raise the pitch to woo teachers, school children pay heavy price

Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, who had earlier cancelled mid-term holidays to make up for the days lost due to the lockdown, not only announced the leave on Sunday, but also extended it to private state syllabus schools.

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BENGALURU: As the October 28 biennial polls to four seats of the Karnataka Legislative Council near, the ruling BJP, and Opposition Congress and JD(S) are sparing no effort to win over voters -- teachers in this case.

The first casualty was Vidyagama, a three-month old informal open-air learning programme the Education department rolled out for children in government schools for classes 1 to 10 to compensate them for the lack of online education private schools provided to their students.

Congress leader Siddaramaiah and JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy, both former chief ministers, were the first to slam the programme, fearing it was spreading covid; they urged education minister S Suresh Kumar to drop the programme forthwith.


On Saturday, the BJP regime readily gave in, announcing suspension of the programme. Having won the round one, the teachers’ body shot off another demand: now that they have no informal classes, they be given Dasara holidays for three weeks. Soon, Kumaraswamy joined the chorus with a series of tweets, slamming the government for “ill treating” teachers.

Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa who had earlier cancelled mid-term holidays to make up for the days lost due to the lockdown, not only announced the leave on Sunday, but also extended it to private state syllabus schools. This came as an unexpected bolt from the blue to private schools that had been running online classes in full swing, engaging both teachers and students. They are now wondering how “online education” would spread the infection!

The BJP regime’s decision has left child rights activists, education experts and large sections of rural parents fuming as Vidyagama covered 48 lakh children from low-income families and kept learning activity on an even keel. It benefited them as they could not afford a smart-phone, tab, laptop or a desktop that online education requires.
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Political watchers are hardly surprised by the developments. They say votes of teachers are critical to win legislative council seats for every political party. In the last few days, the Congress and JD(S) have opposed drafting teachers even on covid related duty. In fact, Kumaraswamy had threatened an indefinite strike from Tuesday if the government did not stop Vidyagama; he even demanded Rs 50 lakh relief to the families of teachers who died of Covid.

All the three political parties have bent over backwards to please their voters. Yediyurappa probably did not want to take a chance as he probably feared it could lead to an electoral setback in the Council and upcoming bypolls to two Assembly constituencies. He cannot afford an electoral loss, however big or loss as his detractors are waiting in the wings for an opportunity to use any adverse outcome to convince the BJP high command that the chief minister’s popularity was on the wane, an analyst said, not willing to be identified.

The political subtext, however, has not gone unnoticed. “The government’s decision is politically motivated. All parties now want teachers for campaigning,” said Moidin Kutty, president of the state forum of the school development monitoring committees (SDMC), clearly disappointed that politics was influencing education to poor children.

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