TOI Vs. Smriti Irani Christmas Holiday Fight: Ministry Of HRD Clears Facts In A 10-Point Press Note

Ministry of HRD issues a 10-point press note in response to TOI's story that government has asked schools to remain open on Christmas

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Parents of students at government-run schools have been a worried lot today. But they can now breathe a confirmed sigh of relief. The answer to their most important question, “Have Christmas holidays been cancelled for schools?” is “NO”.

Today morning the Times of India had published a front page story stating that the Union government has directed all government-run schools to celebrate ‘Good Governance Day’ on December 25. As per the circular issued by Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti dated Dec 10 2014, the union human resource development ministry wants to celebrate the birthdays of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Hindu Mahasabha leader Madan Mohan Malviya by observing `Good Governance Day’ on Christmas.

The directive includes a list of activities for schools – declamation contests, quiz competitions, essay competition, one-act plays, screening of documentaries and films all focusing on Good Governance. The TOI report stated that while the Union government-run Navodaya Vidyalayas has issued a circular to its schools, the CBSE hasn’t issued any circulars to its schools yet.

“If the Union government has its way, CBSE schools may have to remain open on this Christmas,” TOI stated, leading to widespread jibes at the Union HRD Ministry for making kids write essays during holidays, and also cancelling their Christmas holiday.

However, the Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Smriti Irani was quick to clarify that schools will remain closed for X’mas and that the essay competition, which is an online one, is only voluntary. Smriti chose to make her clarifications through Twitter.

Smriti tweeted to TOI that if truth is a virtue it cherished, she hoped to see a retraction on the front page tomorrow in bold. The TOI reporter who covered the story, Abhishek Choudhari, did not choose to retract however. He tweeted out points from the issued circular underlining some of them in red. His argument being the very logical – If all schools are closed on X’mas, how will HRD-run Navodayas conduct the following activities like quiz competitions, film screenings, etc.?

Smriti has now responded – through the Ministry of HRD Twitter account – with a 10-point press note responding to the alleged mis-reporting by TOI. The note clarifies that no child or student will be deprived of celebrating the holidays or vacations or participating in their own festivals and religious festivals wholeheartedly.

Stating that the TOI news gives a ‘distorted impression’ on schools being asked to remain open on 25th December, it said that ‘no clarification was sought by the reporter from the Secretary, School Education before going to press.

Per point 3: The proposed instructions of the CBSE are to conduct an online essay competition on December 24 and 25, which is completely voluntary. Per point 2: All CBSE schools will follow their vacation schedule including holiday on 25th December as specifically clarified by CBSE.

Per point 6: Navodaya schools are residential schools. As the vacation pattern in JNVs depend on climatic conditions, the 25th of December will be celebrated in those schools that do not have any winter break. In such schools, since it is a public holiday on 25th December, the schools would also remain closed that day, as no classes would be held. As a residential school, however, the school functions because children continue to remain there and these children will have the opportunity to participate if they so wish in the essay competition.

Per point 7: Kendriya Vidyalayas are observing vacation during that period and hence all Kendriya Vidyalayas will remain closed. Students of Kendriya Vidyalayas if they so desire can participate voluntarily in the online essay competition from their homes or any other place.

As a popular news publication, TOI should have verified from the right source at the HRD before publishing the story, unless there was an intention to ‘distort’ the given information and “create” a viral story. BJP led government cancels Christmas holidays has much more meat than ‘government asking schools to observe good governance’ on Christmas.

This use of Twitter by the Ministry of HRD sets a good example in ORM. Also, it is a great relief to know that the Good Governance activities are voluntary and it is a ‘Merry Christmas’ after all!