In yet another pre-poll guarantee for Gujarat, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday announced free and quality education to all students in government schools in the state and auditing of private schools if the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was elected to power in the upcoming Assembly elections.
Asserting that enhancing education quality of state-run schools will help eradicate poverty, Kejriwal said it is possible to secure the future of 53 lakh students who attend government schools in Gujarat like he has done with 18 lakh pupils going to such institutes in Delhi, where his party AAP is in power.
"All those born in Gujarat will get free and quality education. We will not force anybody. If parents have money, they can send their kids to private schools. But if they do not have money, we will not let the lack of money come in the way of good education for their kids. We will provide the best education for free," said the AAP convener.
The Delhi CM was addressing a town hall at Bhuj in Kutch district and his announcement comes in the midst of the ongoing national debate over providing freebies.
During his fourth visit to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Gujarat in recent days, Kejriwal promised to improve the infrastructure of existing government schools and set up a large number of new ones across the state if his party comes to power after the Assembly polls due by the year-end.
He said the if AAP forms the next government in Gujarat, all private schools will be audited and made to return "extra money" collected from parents like his administration has been done in Delhi.
An AAP government will also end the practice of private schools selling textbooks and uniforms to students as they have made this a separate business, the chief minister said.
"All private schools will be audited and those who have collected a lot of money will have to return them (to parents). If a school intends to raise fees, it will have to get permission from the government. No school will have the permission to raise fees unlawfully," he further said.
When the AAP forms a government in Gujarat, service of teachers working on a contract basis will be regularised and they will be offered job security, the CM said. It will also be ensured that government schoolteachers are not given non-teaching jobs, the AAP leader said.
Kejriwal guaranteed creation of teaching jobs in new schools when they are opened. The government will also make sure that facilities of higher education for women are created across the state and issues faced by "vidya sahayaks" (education assistants) are sorted out, he added.
Candidates who have cleared the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) in Gujarat are demanding appointment as 'vidya sahayaks' (as teachers in state-run primary schools are called) on a large scale. The bureaucrat-turned-politician said the condition of government schools is poor not just in Gujarat, but across the country.
"If we want to make India No. 1 country in the world or a 'Vishwa Guru' (world leader) and prosperous, then the first thing is to improve education. India cannot become rich without improving its education.
"If we improve the condition of government schools in Gujarat, within one generation, happiness will return to these families. Their children will make a career and remove poverty of their parents. This is how India and Gujarat will grow," he said.
Kejriwal said the fees committee set up by the Gujarat government does nothing to control the rampant hike in fees by private schools. Parents do not speak against private schools on fee hikes or other issues because securing admission in them is difficult and they do not want to risk their kids getting rusticated, he said.
"These governments take money from private schools and more than half of private schools belong to these politicians, which is why they do not act against them," he alleged without naming anyone.
The AAP chief said his government has improved the standard of schools in Delhi because of which poor students studying there are now able to secure admission in engineering and medical colleges.
He talked about two students from poor financial backgrounds who studied in Delhi government schools and later secured admission in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in the national capital.
"When the children of poor parents make a career, the poverty of their families is eradicated. And when their poverty is removed, India will progress and become rich," the Delhi CM maintained. Kejriwal attacked the BJP government in Gujarat over its recent announcement of a package of Rs 550 crore annually towards salary hike of police personnel.
He said policemen wanted an increase in their "grade pay" and not an allowance like what has been announced by the government. "They were demanding grade pay which they were not getting. I supported their demand after which the Gujarat government woke up. But what they offered was 'lollypop'," he said.
The AAP convener said he cannot understand why the state government is reluctant in offering better salary to its own employees. "What I have learnt is that they have only increased their (police personnel) allowance. I request the government to take back the allowance, we will offer them grade pay when we come to power in the state," Kejriwal asserted.
Kejriwal, during his earlier visits to Gujarat, had announced a host of pre-poll guarantees related to electricity, jobs, unemployment allowance, women and tribals, among others.
(With PTI Inputs)