HYDERABAD: A war of words has broken out in Andhra Pradesh, with Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu and former state Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu opposing current Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s move to introduce English medium education in place of Telugu medium in government schools from Classes 1 to 6 from this year on. Jagan has also attacked Jana Sena president and actor Pawan Kalyan on this issue.

“I want to know where the children and grandchildren of Venkaiah Naidu, Chandrababu Naidu and Pawan Kalyan are studying—in Telugu or English medium schools?” asked Jagan, while addressing a meeting before launching a programme to revive government schools across Andhra Pradesh. He was referring to objections raised by a host of critics, including Venkaiah Naidu and Chandrababu Naidu, among others.

The Chief Minister was referring to a speech delivered by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu at a private function last week where he said that the decision to replace Telugu medium with English medium in the primary sections was not a good idea as it would deprive children of their right to learn in their mother tongue. The Vice President is keen on promoting Telugu language and culture in Andhra.

The same line was picked up by former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and Pawan Kalyan too. Naidu, while addressing a series of meetings early this week, criticised Jagan for his “thoughtless decision” which would destroy Telugu language and literature. Naidu said that Andhra Pradesh was the first linguistic state in India and it prided itself for its rich language and culture.

Naidu also objected to the Jagan government’s move on English medium for its lack of preparedness on switching over from one medium to another in a hasty manner.
“Where is the preparedness for this massive transformation? Children will suffer as teachers are not trained enough and schools will find it difficult to cope with,” Naidu said.

Pawan Kalyan went a step ahead and attacked Jagan for his patronage of English as “misplaced adventurism”. “Will you also introduce English translation of ‘Suprabhatam’ at Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams?” asked Pawan. The actor-turned-politician, too, just like Venkaiah Naidu and Chandrababu Naidu, felt that this decision would spell doom for Telugu in Andhra Pradesh.

However, Jagan and a group of his ministers justified the decision on the ground that poor children, too, had the right to learn English and study in the English medium in government schools. Jagan said that his decision was based on two factors: first, the poor were finding it difficult to send their children to private schools as government schools didn’t have English medium.

Second is the need for government schools to gear up to the future challenge and the need to make India a skilled and developed nation. “Why shouldn’t poor children too study free of cost in government schools in English medium? Telugu will be taught in all schools; there is no threat to the language,” he said at a government programme on Thursday.

Jagan’s move to introduce English medium in all 45,000 government schools is part of his drive to transform them in the coming three years. Named as “Nadu-Nedu” (Now and Then), under this programme, the government will spend around Rs 12,000 crore to improve facilities and infrastructure in government schools by 2022-23.

In the first phase, around 15,715 government schools would be taken up this year for providing nine types of facilities—toilets for boys and girls, drinking water, ceiling fans, lighting of electrical bulbs, green blackboards, chalk pieces, proper furniture, compound walls and English laboratories. Teachers, too, would be trained to switch over from Telugu to English medium by supporting textbooks etc.

Jagan launched this programme in the PVR Municipal School in Ongole district headquarters on 14 November, Children’s Day, and told the gathering of students and parents that all government schools would be photographed now and after three years and the progress made in this time would be posted on social media and other platforms for all to see.

Jagan said that improving government schools was one of the top priorities of his government and he won’t mind spending enough money, though there was a shortage of funds in the budget. “I know that some people are opposed to providing English medium education to poor children as they want poverty to remain here forever, but I will not allow this to continue,” said Jagan referring to his detractors.

The Chief Minister’s decision was also supported by Andhra Pradesh Official Language Chairman Yarlagadda Lakshmi Prasad on the ground that protection of Telugu should continue to guide the government’s policy and that the introduction of English medium in schools would not affect it. Lakshmi Prasad, a former Rajya Sabha MP, felt that the decision of the Chief Minister was based on popular demand.

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