Church schools decry interference
Clergy to go to High Court to reassert 'right' to administer educational institutions
Archbishop Leo Cornelio
The Catholic Church in Madhya Pradesh says state government interference is forcing it to go to the High Court to protect its right to run its own educational institutions. Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal is accusing the state government of “misusing” a new education law to “interfere” with the running of Christian schools in the state. The federal government last year introduced the Right to Education Act to provide free and compulsory education for children between six and 14 years old. The act became law on April 1, 2010, but will be implemented for the new academic year beginning in July. Now the state government is using it as a tool to harass Christian educational institutions, he says. “Representatives of the district education officers are telling us who should be given admission and are insisting they be part of the decision-making apparatus in our schools,” the prelate said recently. This, the prelate said, violates Article 30 of the constitution and several court orders that grant functional freedom to minority schools. According to the prelate, Article 30 outlines the right to admit students, appoint staff, take disciplinary action against staff members, constitute a governing body and set a reasonable fee structure. Archbishop Cornelio said a state government circular, issued in March, regarding implementation of the Right to Education Act in Madhya Pradesh deliberately ignored the rights of minority institutions and demonstrated it is trying to take over the administration of Christian schools. “We are being forced to go to the court to save our educational institutions. Our petition will also challenge the circular and seek a stay on its implementation as it is infringing upon on our right to provide quality education,” he said. “Government officials are also opposed to giving admission to economically-disadvantaged Christians in the 25 percent quota for poor children,” he added.