The ‘community gap’ in primary education


JUST before schools reopened for the year, the department of education in Karnataka announced new timings for schools in the state. Irrespective of place and region, all schools were to function from 9 am to 4 pm. The decision met with protests, including a major public demonstration and roadblock in one of the districts. Several deputations of teachers and their associations met the minister and sought to have the old timings re-established. As many noted, the new timing was primarily designed to help decongest Bangalore’s traffic at peak hours and was not in the interest of either the children or the schools.

While the decision to impose the new timing flew in the face of any understanding of the structure and functioning of schools, especially government and rural schools, it came at a time when the department of education had called for public discussion and contribution towards developing policies and programmes for primary education. The new orientation was supposedly to evolve a community-centred approach, buttressed by decentralised administration for schools. Yet, as the decision on the school timings indicated, the interests of the communities were more violated than considered.

The decision led not only to chaos but to the withdrawal of many girl children from schools, in the process threatening th