#Interview “We are Preparing Teachers to be Torchbearers of Society”: Mahendra Kapoor, Organising Secretary, Akhil Bharatiya Rashtriya Shaikshik Mahasangh
Akhil Bharatiya Rashtriya Shaikshik Mahasangh (ABRSM) is the premier national organisation of teachers from KG to PG. It has been working since 1988 not only to fight for the cause of teachers but also to make them the torchbearers of society. Today, it has effective units in 90 universities and 24 states of the country. It has planned to have units up to block level in all the states by 2025. After Shri Mukundrao Kulkarni, the founder of ABRSM, Shri Mahendra Kapoor has been guiding the organisation as organising secretary. Chief News Coordinator of Organiser Dr Pramod Kumar spoke to Shri Mahendra Kapoor in New Delhi to understand the activities of the ABRSM and to know its future plans. Excerpts:
What was the objective behind the formation of Akhil Bharatiya Rashtriya Shaikshik Mahasangh (ABRSM)?
After Independence, it was widely realised that if the problems of any section of the society are to be resolved, they should be presented before the competent authorities in an organised manner. This was the basic idea behind the formation of the majority of the organisations. In the Sangh also many workers started work in various walks of life and worked tirelessly to address the problems of various sections of the society with the Bharatiya perspective. Unfortunately, most of the organisations already working among those sections were guided by the alien mindset and they were politically motivated. Most of such organisations were associated with the left parties or the Congress party. Their focus was to fight only for the rights of the teachers and nothing else. Whereas we believe that it is the job of the teachers and their organisations to actively contribute to the betterment of education as a whole. That is why in 1985, we thought that we must have our own all India federation of teachers’ organisations to give Bharat-centric direction to the Indian teachers’ movement. Finally, in 1988, we formed the ABRSM in Bhopal. The objective was to change the education system, fight for the respect of teachers and make education Bharat-centric. We are surely the teachers’ organisation, but all activities related to education whether the issues of teachers, policy formulation, the framing of the curriculum, preparing the textbooks, inculcating human values, etc are part of our agenda. Our founder Shri Mukundrao Kulkarni started working in a teachers’ organisation, namely, the All India Secondary Teachers Federation (AISTF) at Pune in 1954. He became president of the AISTF in 1967 after defeating the communist leader Satyapriya Roy. He was a nationalist to the core and after having a discussion with senior Sangh Pracharak Shri Bhaurao Deoras, he formed the Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal in 1969. Initially, it worked as a teachers’ organisation, but gradually it was realised that organising teachers for Shiksha, Shikshak and Samaj is a different thing and working for reforms in education is different. Hence, the work of organising teachers for different activities including teachers’ welfare was segregated from the BSM in 1988 by forming the ABRSM as a separate organisation.
How far you have you been able to achieve the objectives for which the ABRSM was formed in 1988?
We in the ABRSM say — “Rashtra Ke Hit mein Shiksha, Shiksha ke Hit mein Shikshak, Shikshak ke hit mein Samaj”. All other organisations talk only about the rights of teachers like their salary or allowances. But, apart from the teachers’ issues, we are for instilling Bharatiya ‘tatva’ in education and we play a key role in policy formulation also. It was done right from the formulation of the Education Policy of 1986. We also try to ensure that the curriculum and textbooks are Bharat-centric. This is a fact that during the last seven decades the respect for teachers has declined. Only teachers are not responsible for this degradation. We believe the bureaucrats, particularly after the Independence, started engaging the teachers in non-teaching activities. We believe the respect of teachers should be restored. Bharat has a distinct identity in the world due to teachers and education only. If the respect of teachers is restored, the whole system will witness a positive change. Therefore, concrete steps should be taken in this regard without delay.
Major Activities of ABRSM
• Originally formed in 1969 as Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal by Shri Mukundrao Kulkarni
• Formed as a separate organisation in 1988
• Presently has units in 24 states and 90 universities
• Target to have effective units in all the states by the year 2025
• Working to motivate the teachers to play an active role in social transformation & nation
• Today, over 10 lakh teachers are associated through 35 organisations in various states
• Mathematics and English coaching to students in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan
What are you doing for restoring the respect of teachers?
For it, we have started honouring the outstanding teachers who have contributed immensely in the field of education, at our organisational level—both at the state and national level. We have started a programme ‘Kartavya Bodh’ in the organisation to remind the teachers of their duty towards the students and society and to create a sense of accountability in them. As a teacher, he has to teach in class with perfection, but at the same time, he has to act as a guardian of the students and give a positive direction to the society. The awakening of the sense of duty is necessary for positive change in the society. There are about one crore teachers and 30 crore students from KG to PG level in the country. If one crore teachers have sense of duty, they can surely give a new direction to the entire 133 crore population. We have accepted the entire system as a ‘Shaikshik Parivar’ which includes the teachers, students, their parents, policymakers and the staff engaged in non-teaching activities in the educational institutions.
ABRSM and its affiliates celebrate Bharatiya Nav Varsh on ‘Chaitra Pratipada’ and organise programmes to awaken the society about the new year. A massive nationwide campaign is taken up by ABRSM to propagate eternal human values to inspire teachers, students, parents and others to imbibe them in their life. We also celebrate ‘Gurvandan Programme’ through our units to respect Gurus and adapt their teaching in their conduct and behaviour. We are also organising seminars, conferences, symposium, workshops, camps on issues of national and international importance. Recently, we organised International conferences on issues such as "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam" and "Bharatiya Women: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow" and are planning to have a conference on “Human Right—National and International Issues and Challenges”.
Educating Teachers for Social Concerns
Formed in 1988 in Bhopal, the Akhil Bharatiya Rashtriya Shaikshik Mahasangh (ABRSM) is an organisation imbued with Indianness with an aim to propagate the ideology of cultural nationalism in the field of education and society. Along with safeguarding teachers' interests including their salary, allowances, service conditions and other facilities, the Mahasangh keeps in mind its national objectives, plans and executes the programmes of social concern and educational upgradation. Now the Mahasangh is a national organisation. Presently, 35 state-level organisations and more than 90 university-level organisations spread over 24 States are affiliated to it. Also, 230 Universities are in touch with the Mahasangh. The Vision of the organisation is--Rashtra Ke Hit Mein Shiksha, Shiksha Ke Hit Mein Shikshak, Shikshak Ke Hit Mein Samaj.
Objectives of the ABRSM
● To bring teachers from different parts of the country under one forum
● To improve the educational, economic and social status of the teachers from KG to PG level
● To give memorandums to the Government(s) and get the issues resolved
● To work towards developing a model of education based on Indian culture and national ethos
● To ensure teachers' participation in policy formulation; its management and control, and to free education from non-teacher administrative control
● To protect and safeguard the autonomy of universities
● To awaken the sense of duty among teachers for the Nation, Society and Indian values
● To give suggestions for improving policies
● To encourage research, exploration and innovation in the field of education and to develop global vision towards a noble Indian education system
● To establish a connection with the teachers working in different parts of the world
● To honour the extraordinary and excellent teacher-performers
● To organise programmes aiming at enhancing social harmony and make endeavours to co-ordinate students, parents and society
● To prepare a reference list of subject experts and serve as a link to connect them with one another
● To form a scholars' council.
We believe that we have to improve the system collectively and with the family spirit. We hope to achieve good results of this experiment in the coming days. The third aspect of our approach is that society should think about the wellbeing of the teachers. Now after the 4th Pay Commission, the teachers have started getting a respectable amount. But a mindset has developed during the last 72 years that teachers do nothing. However, this is unfair because in many remote and rural areas the teachers are working well and the villagers also extend them high respect. Today, the problem with the teachers is that they are involved in many non-teaching activities like pulse polio, census, elections, mid-day meal. The height of it was witnessed in Bihar sometime back when the administration directed the teachers to click the photographs of the people doing open defecation in the morning. It is a gross insult to the teachers to engage them in such ridiculous activities. There is dire need to review the non-teaching tasks given to the teachers. Their engagement in teaching activities should be increased. Additionally, there are areas in the country where there is a high rate of dropouts and the students are not able to meet the educational expenses. We have started some coaching centres at some places to help such needy students. Some steps in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan have been made in this regard and we hope to take it up on a large scale in coming days. We also take up some activities of social concerns like organising blood donation camps, organising health camps, etc. We motivate the teachers to discover the talent of the students and nurture that for the betterment of the nation.
RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat, chief of Gayatri Parivar Dr Pranav Pandya and others at ‘Shiksha Bhushan’ function
Teaching is the top priority of teachers and there should be no compromise on it. For this responsibility, we fight for the cause of fellow teachers. We are not in favour of any strike or damaging public property. However, some organisations are always seen indulging in such activities, which ultimately decrease the respect of teachers. This should not be our role. A teacher nurtures and not damages. We design all our activities keeping this vision in mind. We say the government schools should be the best schools in the country. The teachers of government schools have been felicitated for doing exemplary work. The villagers at two villages in Rajasthan gifted cars to the principals of the schools. The villagers presented silver coins to all the teachers also. It was done because of their wonderful performance. Kota has emerged a coaching hub where the students from across the country come for the coaching to seek admission in engineering and medical streames. But in these villages, the teachers prepared the students in Science and Maths to the level that none of them required to go to Kota for coaching and they excelled in entrances tests without any coaching. These teachers provided them coaching at night also. Such activities restore the trust of the society in government schools and towards the teachers. Such activities distinguish us from other organisations.
A massive rally by teachers under the banner of Rajasthan Shikshak Sangh in Jaipur
In how many states the ABRSM has units today?
We have effective units in 24 states. Our contact in four other states has improved and we will have active units there soon. We do not have formal work in Nagaland, Mizoram and Sikkim so far. We have formal units in 90 universities and 35 state organisations are affiliated with us today. Apart from 90 universities, we have contacts in 230 universities.
You have mentioned coaching in some states. When is it offered?
The duration of this special coaching is for two-three months. Coaching is imparted in Mathematics and English. We have planned to strengthen this experiment in coming days in various states. Presently, this experiment is going on in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
If we recall five major turning points or milestones in the ABRSM’s journey so far, what are they?
First, when the UPA Government changed the curriculum in 2004, we organised agitations across the country and compelled the central government not to do that. Second, the memorandum which we presented to the Sixth Pay Commission and UGC Pay Committee was taken very seriously by those committees and many of our suggestions were accepted. Third, many inputs are given by the ABRSM regarding the National Education Policy-2019. Fourth, the eternal human values Abhiyan has helped us in the transformation of the attitude of the teachers to a great extent. Fifth is the felicitation of educationists, who contribute outstandingly in the field of education, with the Shiksha Bhushan Award.
Any special plan for the future?
We are working to have units in all the states by the year 2025. Out of 24 states, we have work in every district of 20 states. We have the work up to Block level in 15 states. We wish to have units in every district and block by 2025. The ABRSM will be the largest teachers’ organisation till then. We are also working towards enhancing the active role and participation of women in activities. Hence, the state-level training camps for women will be organised. We conduct agitations also, but we do not cause damage. We normally present memorandums to the authorities. We have conducted agitations involving over 15,000 teachers. In Rajasthan, over 30,000 teachers joined the agitation. In 2008, a good number of teachers joined the agitation at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.
Governor of Goa Smt Mridula Sinha at ABRSM function in Delhi
If we have to remember some important agitations by the ABRSM, what are they?
In 2004, when the UPA changed the curriculum, we conducted agitations across the country. Then also we peacefully presented memorandums to the authorities. In 2012-2013 we staged massive demonstrations at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. At the state level, dharnas and demonstrations are the routine processes. Since education is in Concurrent List, the type of agitations are different in different states. A number of state organisations have staged massive movement comprising of ten to twenty thousands teachers to press their demands.
What is the status of 7th Pay Commission implementation in the education sector?
The Central Government has implemented it but it has not yet been full implemented in several states. In higher education institutions, the Finance Ministry has offered to reimburse 50% of the extra financial burden for 39 months. We demanded full reimbursement from the Central Government Salary as per 7th Pay Commission is the major demand of the teachers and the central government should think of it. In the government, we spoke to the then Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley many times. HRD Ministry also favoured this idea. We are still pressurising the authorities for it.
What is your opinion about the new Education Policy? Do you think what you had proposed has been incorporated in the final draft policy?
We have welcomed the new education policy. Many of our proposals have been accommodated. We gave many presentations before the Kasturirangan committee. We feel the new education policy is an endeavour to make education Bharat-centric. We have gathered some suggestions from the states and soon we are submitting our suggestions for improvement in the draft.
Shri Prakash Javadekar addressing the ABRSM dharna at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi in 2013
The new education policy talks about ‘schools cluster’ and ‘university cluster’. In this new system, the colleges will be allowed to grant their own degrees. Some people say it will increase the commercialisation of education in private sector. What is the stand of ABRSM on it?
We believe that autonomy is the lifeline of an educational institution for creation of knowledge and for learning. We, therefore, welcome autonomy with institutional accountability.
There is a huge shortage of teachers in the higher education sector. Now new departments are also being opened. How will the new departments function if this shortage of faculty members continues?
We are pressing for the recruitment of permanent teachers. Today, more than 40 per cent seats are vacant in various schools, colleges and universities. Most of the positions are filled with an adhoc system. About 4500 faculty members are teaching in the University of Delhi on an ad-hoc basis. They are teaching in this position for more than 15 years. Efforts were made for appointments in the last five years, but the process could not be completed due to some of the technical reasons. This process should be accelerated. We are of the firm opinion that permanent faculty members should be appointed in all the institutions. Appointing teachers on part-time or ad-hoc basis will not benefit education.
The ABRSM was to start a Vistarak Yojana. What is the status of that scheme?
It has been started by the Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal. We could not basically do it. It is a good experiment. We are working on it with a difference. Instead of opting for the young full-timers we are planning to engage retired teachers as full-timers. I hope we shall have a good team of such full-timers in the coming two-three years.
What is the Kutumba Prabodhan project by ABRSM?
This project was started in 2018. Initially, it has been started through lectures and some other activities. In coming days it will be taken up on a large scale. We all know that our rich family system guarantees all kind of security to all family members. But as this system is being eroded, our entire social fabric is weakening. From double income family, we have reached to the family with no kids. There are families where the husband and wife stay separate even without having kids. It is against the family values of Bharat. We did not have the concept of old age homes. Grandparents support the kid and the kid when grows up supports the grandparents. All are complementary to each other. We all have to save the family system, because it is being hit by alien forces. In the beginning, we have focused on the teachers and the general public. In coming days it will cover the students also.
A campaign for eternal human values was started by you. What is the progress in that?
This campaign was started in 2014. The prime objective of this campaign is to educate the teachers about the eternal values of life. We discuss these values with them with the expectation that they first understand them and then impart them to the students. We expect that a teacher should start it from oneself. First, we live life according to those values and then we should impart those values to our fellow teachers in the organisation. We are planning training camps for teachers at the block level. We are working on this project for the last five years. We feel the values can be reestablished through the teachers effectively. We are taking it as a big campaign.
Any other matter you wish to mention?
There are some issues. Our Shikshan Bhushan Award is a unique scheme started four years back to felicitate the teachers. It was started in 2015 during the national convention held in Nagpur. Under this project, we honour three educationists for their contribution to the field of education. This year we have decided to focus on women. This is the main theme of our national convention to be held in November at Mehsana, Gujarat. Our overall objective is not to fight for the teachers’ rights alone, but to prepare them to act as torchbearers of the society. Today, over 10 lakh teachers are associated with us across the country.