Chennai: Holding that the government is justified in utilizing the services of surplus secondary grade teachers in public interest, the Madras high court has upheld an order of the state government in deploying the secondary grade teachers as kindergarten teachers to take classes to LKG/UKG students in Anganwadi centres in Tamil Nadu.
Dismissing a batch of petitions from various teachers associations and individual teachers, a division bench comprising Justices N.Kirubakaran and S.S.Sundar said, “It is open to the government to introduce a bridge course and give proper training to secondary grade teachers for six months and empower them to impart Montessori based education to kindergarten students simultaneously while employing them as Montessori teachers. The government is directed to go ahead with the project at the earliest as the academic year is to commence from June 1, 2019”.
The bench said it is the constitutional obligation of the state to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of 6 years under Article 45 of the Constitution of India. Therefore, it is the bounden duty of every state government to provide early childhood care and education for all children. In this direction only, the state government has already established Anganwadi centres to look after the children aged between 2 years and 5 years, as per the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme which is the largest integrated early childhood programme for covering various government programmes namely, primary health care and education delivery systems for young children, adolescent girls and women from under privileged communities through Anganwadi centres.
The noble object of the scheme is to increase the literacy rate and to eradicate malnutrition by providing hot cooked meals to the children in the age group of 2 years to 5 years throughout the year, the bench added.
The bench said in Tamil Nadu, as many as 54,439 Anganwadi centres have been established with one Anganwadi worker and one Anganwadi helper in each centre to take care of the children in Anganwadi centres by providing supplementary nutrition and non-formal free school education. In the said 2,381 Anganwadi centres, which were located within the premises of government middle schools, the state government decided to introduce Montessori education based LKG and UGK classes for 52, 933 children, who were to be benefited. The state government passed orders granting administrative approval. Based on the said approval, the Director of Elementary Education passed an order directing deployment of surplus secondary grade teachers in the school education department to the Anganwadi centres to teach LKG/UKG students. The said government orders as well as the subsequent orders were challenged by the petitioners, the bench added.
The bench said the government has categorically stated in the counter affidavit that secondary grade teachers would be governed by elementary education department only and there was no merger and their service conditions will not be disturbed and seniority will be maintained only in the parent panchayat union block. Hence, the apprehensions of the petitioners were not sustainable and by no stretch of imagination, the petitioners would be affected by the impugned orders or by the decision of the government. Therefore, the petitions were liable to be dismissed, the bench added.
The bench said while taking steps to provide free and quality education from kindergarten level, the government has got every right to utilize the services of surplus teachers constructively instead of going for fresh recruitment spending huge amounts. About 5,934 posts secondary grade teachers have been rendered surplus and the government was incurring `37 crore per month and `445 crore per annum towards salary to surplus teachers. Therefore, while taking care of the educational needs of the poor sections of the society, the government was equally justified to consider the government exchequer as well. To avoid any further expenditure, the services of surplus teachers were being effectively sought to be utilized. Therefore, the government was justified in utilizing the services of surplus secondary grade teachers in public interest, the bench added.