Govt clarifies that schools will be closed for Xmas

Amid uproar, ministers dismiss reports that Dec 25 is not holiday

Parliament on Monday witnessed uproar over reports of schools being ordered by the Centre to remain open on Christmas to observe “Good Governance Day”.

The government, however, clarified that no such instruction had been issued and only an online essay competition on the subject was being organised which, too, was not mandatory.

Dismissing the report published in an English daily, an enraged Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Smriti Irani also tweeted to the newspaper, “deliberate mischief by ur (sic) reporter on the front page today. All schools closed for Xmas, essay competition only online. If truth is a virtue u cherish can I c (sic) a retraction tomorrow on the front page in bold (3/3).”

Talking to the media, Smriti charged that the controversy had deliberately been created to grab headlines with an intention to make her “keep on giving explanations on this. Christmas will be celebrated on December 25 and schools will remained closed,” she maintained.  After the Opposition parties raised the issue, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the media report was “factually false”. Clarifying in the Upper House, the minister told the members that Smriti informed him that no such instruction had been issued. “No school will function (on December 25). Only an online essay competition (is being organised). That’s all,” Jaitley said.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) leader Sitaram Yechury raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha.

Following a circular from the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) decided to organise quiz competitions, declamation contest as well as screening of documentaries and films on good governance on December 25 to celebrate birth anniversary of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Madan Mohan Malaviya as “Good Governance Day”. The NVS also issued a circular that the CBSE would simultaneously organise competitions under “Expression Series on Good governance” on December 24 and 25.

Students can submit their entries in form of essay or one act play, either online or offline. The contest will be open for students under two categories—class VI to VIII and IX to XII—and the 36 best entries in each category will be rewarded with a prize of Rs 2,000 in cash and a certificate of merit. Issuing a clarification on the issue in the Lok Sabha, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu denied that the CBSE issued any circular asking schools to remain open on Christmas.

“It is voluntary in nature. It is not mandatory. There is no question of using force,” Naidu told the Lok Sabha. While the Navodaya Schools are already on Christmas break, the winter holiday schedule will remain in place, he added.

The HRD ministry later came up with a detailed clarification that there was no requirement for any school to remain open on December 25 and the school vacations will be “adhered to”.

“Even CBSE as an office will remain closed as a public holiday on December 25 on account of Christmas. NVS has clarified that no other activities for this competitions are being held at its schools, which are residential, except opportunity to submit their essays online voluntarily,” it added.

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