Maharashtra Education Minister Must Resign

The Education Minister, Vinod Tawde, and the Vice Chancellor of Mumbai University, Dr Sanjay Deshmukh are very comfortable with their job security despite an embarrassing 111 days of not declaring the results of the exams. Per law, this is required within 45 days of examinations. It will probably be 115 days when you read this.  

The current crisis in the education sector in Maharashtra is unprecedented. The crisis isn't only the problems faced by students and teachers in the university; the bigger catastrophe is that  it seems the government is totally comfortable with students not being heard. Or heard, but ignored. Ignored, and pushed to their limits. Only because they will never be a united vote bank, and there will never be a revolt. They are way too busy solving their problems for that.  

The Mumbai University exams of the final year ended on April 23. It is now August and there is absolutely no sign of any results till date. The Hon'ble Governor, without whose suo-moto intervention things wouldn't even move this much, set a deadline for July 31 to which the university promised to adhere. Every student, every parent, waited patiently. Political youth wings respected the deadline set and didn't protest.

It now seems that the results won't be declared fully till August 15, 2017. Mark-sheets will take even longer!

What happens to all those students who have applied abroad? What happens to all those students wanting to sign up for Post Graduation courses in India?

Simple: they miss a year, while the university messes up and the Minister and the Vice Chancellor save their jobs till next year's chaos.

Not only us, but many youth wings, students, teachers, experts have spoken out against the failed online system in education in Maharashtra. It has failed us during admissions, now it has failed us further during assessments.

In March 2015, I met with the Education Minister, asking him to scrap the current online admissions system, improve it and then revive it. He failed to act after his promise.

In 2016, we led a march with a demand to scrap the online system till improvements are made, it was ignored.

In 2017, with a failed online admission, the university suddenly chanced upon the idea of online assessment. And for results that ideally should have been out by early June, the tender was awarded in May 2017!

The tender awarded is fishy too. Apparently it was re-tendered thrice, and then given to a company that has quoted 50% below the estimated cost. However, let's steer clear of wondering if it's  a scam. It just may be. Let's hope the investigations are carried out without a clean chit ready.  

If now the assessment done as a face saver was 110,000 papers a day, what is the quality of correction? There are two contradictory statements, one by the Minister on the floor of the House and the other by the university about whether non-teaching staff was allowed to correct papers.

Can the teachers really, or anyone for that matter, sit at computer screens for six hours daily and correct papers at the rate of 3 papers a minute? Are our subcenters ready to handle the internet load - our servers failed thrice!

The bar codes of one's main paper don't match with the supplements taken for some papers - how does one tally those marks then?

This is probably one of the smaller crises at the Mumbai University which has a Vice Chancellor who travels abroad to set up MU campuses in the USA and Dubai despite the mess back home and no one to handle it. The university is currently without a Pro Vice Chancellor, has a Registrar (who was the only one to help students and now has been suddenly shifted out), an ad hoc controller of examinations who has no idea of what is going on.

The law says that when the university fails, the state government  must intervene and act and advise the Chancellor to intervene directly.  

Apparently, the university is an autonomous body. However, the press note released by it on July 30 gives due credit to Cabinet Minister Vinod Tawde for intervention and for inducing assessment (after missing the deadline again, of course).

In this mess, it is not just the moral responsibility for the Education Minister and the Vice Chancellor to resign, but also a practicality needed to save the future of lakhs of students! The ease with which both have dealt with this crisis is shameful. Our university is nowhere close to being in the top 500 (of the world) and such negligence and ignorance is only allowing it to worsen!

There is much more to the chaos in the education sector in Maharashtra, be it at the university level, or pre-school level. The Maharashtra government cannot afford this embarrassment, more so, retain someone who takes the future of lakhs of students so lightly.

I have advised on this in private. I have spoken in public later. Only to save the government this embarrassment. Now this isn't an embarrassment anymore, this is a full-blown crisis.

The Cabinet Minister and the Vice Chancellor must go, their mark sheets say "fail."

(Aditya Thackeray is the president of Yuva Sena, the youth wing of Shiv Sena)

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