CHENNAI: British-era railway schools, testimony for India's historic legacy-having separate schools for railway employees children-are to come to an end by April 2019.
The decision is a result of a big policy transformation by Union Government based on the recommendations of Bibek Debroy committee submitted in 2015. The high-level committee suggested that railways should discontinue its non-core activities.
On Tuesday, the Southern Railway directed its divisional officials in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, not to enrol new students in railway schools for the current academic year. "Fresh intake in railway schools of both Railway and Non Railway wards may be stopped from the academic year 2018-19," reads the recent order issued on behalf of Principal Chief Personal Officer, Southern railway.
The order also directed the railway school authorities to sensitise students, parents through Parent Teacher Association, to shift their wards to other places or schools for the next academic year of 2019 - 20.
This means about 6800 students studying in eight railway schools in Tamil Nadu and one school in Palakkad for 2018-19 will be the last batch for railway schools in the two States and schools will be shut by April 2019.
Teachers from the schools will be redeployed at the same station as far as possible, added the official order.
Southern Railway has four higher secondary schools at Perambur, Tiruchirappalli (GOC) Madurai and Palakkad, while five high schools function at Arakkonam, Erode, Jolarpet, Podanur and Villupuram.
Railway schools were established in Tamil Nadu between 1890 and 1900's to provide education to children of Britishers employed in railways. They were mostly built as per Victorian-era architectural style. After Independence, railway schools were thrown open for non railway people as well.
The railways decision came as a rude shock for workers, whose children were mostly studying in railway schools. Workers were worried that as their wards studied under CBSE syllabus at railway schools, they had to be put into nearby private CBSE schools, which collect exorbitant fee.
"We were told that after shifting the children to private schools, we can reimburse the school fee paid for our children. However, not all the charges can be claimed from railways as private schools will have lot of hidden fees," said Gnaraja, a railway worker whose son is studying at Perambur Mixed Higher Secondary school.
He added that many private schools don't take students for Classes IX and X. "We will have to pay huge donations to schools to get our children admitted. It will also affect their studies," he added.
The school teachers, were also worried over the alternative jobs and location of their postings.
"Many of us got married and settled with our families at Jolarpet. If we get transferred to Chennai or Erode, our family will have to get shifted and it will spoil our children's education," said a teacher from Jolarpet.
A few school teachers said they were not willing to give up their teaching profession. "If we are put into the administrative works, we may put in our papers," added a teacher.
In 2014, the Centre set up a high-level committee, headed by Bibek Debroy, for "Mobilisation of Resources for Major Railway Projects and Restructuring of Railway Ministry and Railway Board.
The panel in its interim report submitted in 2015 had suggested that railways should distance itself from non-core activities such as running a police force, schools, hospitals and production and construction units to compete with the private sector efficiently.
The other crucial recommendation include decentralising the administration and increasing the powers of General Managers and Divisional railway managers through 'transformation cell'.