Pune: Row erupts over suspension of national award-winning teacher
Pune, Dec 22 (PTI) The suspension of a government school teacher from Maharashtra's Pune district who had won a national award some years ago has led to controversy. Dattatray Ware or 'Ware Guruji', the officiating principal of a model Zilla Parishad school in Shirur tehsil, was awarded National Teachers Award in 2016.
He was placed under suspension by the Pune Zilla Parishad recently over alleged misuse of his position and financial misdemeanors. He denies all charges.
The school, located at Wablewadi in Shirur tehsil, underwent a transformation after Ware took charge in 2012 with upgradation of the infrastructure and introduction of novel teaching methods.
It now has 700-plus students who receive lessons in robotics and foreign languages among other things, besides standard curriculum.
Ayush Prasad, chief executive officer of the Zilla Parishad, told PTI on Tuesday that Ware was suspended in November following some complaints, and probe is underway.
One of the allegations was that he asked for a donation of Rs 25,000 for enrolling a child in the ZP school.
"He is a national award winner, and there could be some jealousy towards him. Also there were no such allegations against him in the past, so we appointed an inquiry committee headed by an additional CEO- rank officer, Prasad said.
The committee's report noted seven allegations.
While a 2018 government order allows acceptance of donation by ZP schools, in this case the money was deposited into two private accounts, the CEO said, adding that there was no "financial lapse per se but it was sort of financial impropriety." On the basis of these reports, a charge sheet was filed with the divisional commissioner's office where hearing was going on, Prasad said.
Subsequently, there was another allegation about the purchase of land by Ware.
As per Supreme Court guidelines in such cases, Ware was suspended over this fresh allegation as well as for delay in replying to earlier charges, Prasad said.
Speaking to PTI, Ware said he has responded to the notices and handed over all the documents requested by the authorities.
He claimed that he had purchased the said land for over Rs 35 lakh, his own money, in three instalments and mentioned the deal in his asset declaration.
As to allegations related to donations, Ware said a school improvement committee comprising village residents was responsible for all such financial matters. "Where is the question of my committing any financial impropriety then," he said.
"I worked here with honesty and with a vision to transform the school... but an attempt is being made to make me a scapegoat," he added.
Hermab Kulkarni, an education expert and writer, has come out in Ware's support.
"Ware sir showed how the profile of a ZP school can be changed. Now parents are waiting to enroll children in this school. If a teacher of his stature is being demoralized, the moral of other (government school) teachers in the state will also be affected," he said.
"I have written to Maharashtra school education minister Varsha Gaikwad on the issue," Kulkarni added.