The CSF Protests Government De-recognising St. Mary’s School
Mumbai, Maharashtra, 28 May, 2011: The CSF, the activist community NGO has in a memorandum to the chief minister, Prithviraj Chavan and education minister sought their intervention in striking down the order to derecognize the prestigious Jesuit-run St. Mary’s High School in Mazagaon, south Mumbai. It is certainly an attack on a minority institution, in violation of our constitutional right to set-up and manage institutions, without interference – political, communal or otherwise. It seems to be a clear sign of vindictiveness, with malicious intentions, particularly since it seems, the complainant Nanasaheb Patil’s son’s admission was cancelled, resulting in his hitting back. Principals are under great pressure, especially priests and nuns. The order of the deputy director, education department, is in scant disregard for thousands students and parents, who are affected. If the authorities are serious, they should take cognizance of similar glaring and even more grave violations by other schools in the vicinity and elsewhere. The reasons given do not call for such serious action, particularly in case of a 78 year old Jesuit run institution, that has all through its history rendered yeoman service to all, irrespective of any distinction.
The Government of Maharashtra has also inordinately delayed non-salary grants for aided schools, with many Catholic schools being denied grants for almost a decade! since St. Mary’s School has not received since 2004 any non-salary grants. The entire non-salary expenditure has been borne by the management through its own resources. The aided schools, unlike the elite unaided ones, serve the lower and middle strata of society with similar high quality education at a lower cost. Non-receipt of non-salary grant has compelled aided schools to charge students or utilize their own resources, leading to complaints by parents. The CSF will be forced to call for closure of, at least 125 Catholic schools, as a sign of solidarity, if a solution is not found. The parent-teacher association (PTA) has strongly supported the principal and school, who are filing an appeal against the order.
There are other instances of government interference and harassment. Fr. Baptist Pinto, a former Principal of St. Xavier’s School, Mumbai (for ten years) was transferred by the Society of Jesus to St Mary’s High School (SSC) in June 2010. The education department refused to accept him as principal and has kept the proposal pending till today. Instead it nominated a teacher as Acting Principal, denying the priest his dues. The CSF learns that priests and nuns will suffer harassment and bureaucratic hassles from now on, as it will not be able to transfer them easily, according to the government rules. Even though they may belong to the same Archdiocese, if the school trusts are different, then they would have to undergo a tedious procedure of resigning from one and getting appointed by another – which was not the case so far.
Fr. Baptist Pinto, St. Mary’s School principal told The CSF “The Education Department, without notice to the School, also lodged a complaint with the Economic Offence Wing of the Mumbai Police alleging that the School had illegally collected huge amounts and misappropriated them. The Economic Offence Wing, after detailed investigations, has concluded that the complaint is false and has closed the case. The Dy Director of Education, however, on the very same charge, with some other frivolous and flimsy grounds and without considering a detailed explanation supported by documentary evidence, has by an ex-parte order dated 24th May, 2011 de-recognized the St Mary’s High School (SSC). The order has been deliberately passed close to re-opening to jeopardize a recognized, private and minority educational institution of repute”, he said.
The CSF observes that as in case of St. Mary’s and many Christian schools, less than 5 % of the students are Christians and these institutions serve quality education to lakhs of non-Christians, with no discrimination. There are also many Catholic/Christian schools within a small radius in Mumbai. It may be better for the Church to consider sending all Christian students to one school and freeing the other schools to be used for professional/postgraduate institutions (medical, engineering, etc.) or colleges. In this manner, all Christian students, passing from our schools, will get admission in good Christian colleges or institutes of higher learning, rather than clamouring for and being refused admission in the couple of colleges, that the community has.
Shri. Prithviraj Chavan, Chief Minister of Maharashtra
Tel: 022 22854166 / 22024901 / 22025151 / 22025222
Fax: 022 22817068 / 22029214
Shri Rajendra Jawaharlal Darda, School Education Minister
Tel: 22025188 / 22024654 / 23630286 / 23630609