Education Reform Should Be a Political Issue: Atishi to The Quint
Cameraperson: Abhishek Ranjan
Video Editor: Vivek Gupta
Yes, education should be politicised, says Aam Aadmi Party leader Atishi, who is taking a political plunge this year by contesting Lok Sabha elections from east Delhi.
Atishi was ousted from Delhi government last year in April 2018 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government evicted nine advisors from Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's cabinet with an order issued by Ministry of Home Affairs.
She has since emerged as the first candidate announced by AAP who will be fighting the elections – but unlike others, she has decided to fund her campaign entirely through crowdfunding. Why? Because, she says, the party runs on one principle – honesty. Instead of money from corporates, Atishi says she would rather get her funding from the people.
Her crowdfunding initiative really took off when donations hit Rs 2 lakh within hours.
“There are possibilities of corruption everywhere. The fact that AAP is looking for crowdfunding is an indicator that we want to do honest politics. The fact that our government schools look as swanky as they do in the same expenditure that the government have made so far is because the money for those schools is not coming into our pockets,” Atishi tells The Quint.
“We are able to make the difference that we do is because our politics is funded by honest money,” she says.
‘Fight Elections on Education, Not by Distributing Liquor’
To avoid any misinterpretation of her statement that education should be a political issue, Atishi explains that she is looking forward to the day when all parties start competing over who can provide the best public health and education to their citizens.
“AAP has been talking about wanting to make education into a political issue. We live in a country where people vote on the basis of caste, community, religion, distribution of money, liquor, blanket, sarees,” says Atishi as she sits down for an interview with The Quint in her quaint office in Laxmi Nagar, where she operates with the help of a small team.
Atishi goes on,
“Let every party in this country put forward what is it that they have done for government schools. Let there be this fear in every politician that when they knock on the doors of any citizen to ask them for votes – the person inside the house is going to ask them that did you fix the government school of my locality or not.”Atishi, Leader, AAP
“In a political situation like this where money and muscle power takes precedence over basic human development, I think it is a very healthy sign for our democracy if people start voting on the issue of education, healthcare, power, electricity of basic facilities and services every citizen of this country deserves,” she adds.
‘Govt Schools Should Be The Schools of First Choice’
In Atishi’s view, a relatively small group in society, about 20-25 percent people, have access to infrastructure, high quality education, high quality healthcare – but there exists a much larger number of people who have access to none of these, and that’s the problem she wants to fix.
“If you were to look at the history of the world, we find that there is no country across this world that has developed without providing high quality education and high quality healthcare to all of its citizens,” the former education advisor to Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia says.
Atishi also has programmes like Mission Buniyaad, Happiness Curriculum, Mission Chunauti and Mission Chunauti 2.0 to her credit, which were widely regarded as the primary cause of Delhi’s government schools results starting on an upward trajectory.
She says her party has a dedicated vision to make government schools the schools of first choice for every child in the city.
Is AAP Just a Delhi Party?
The party has faced its share of defeats in Lok Sabha elections previously in 2014 where it faced an embarrassing defeat, winning in only four seats out of the 432 they had contested in.
Even at the municipal corporation level, AAP failed to make a dent.
The MCD elections, Atishi says, were soon after AAP’s loss in Punjab and BJP’s win in UP, which negatively influenced the MCD polls for AAP.
“When MCD elections happened, people in Delhi had not been able to see the governance successes of AAP. There was a latency phase where a lot of ground level work was being done – be it on school, electricity, water, healthcare. Today I think people from every section of society accept that AAP has governed the city well,” Atishi said.