Uttarakhand Education Minister Arvind Pandey insults teacher with nonsense arithmetic
DEHRADUN: A surprise visit by Uttarakhand Education Minister Arvind Pandey to a government school turned out to be a humiliating experience for a class 8 school teacher who was pulled up by the minister in front of her class this week. The minister then took it upon himself to ask the teacher a few “basic” questions. Somewhere along the way, he turned rules of arithmetic on its head.
Sample this: He wanted to know how much would two negative signs add up to. “Minus plus minus is plus,” he told the bewildered teacher. Next, he asked her how much would minus one and minus one (-1) + (-1) add up to. The correct answer is -2. The education minister declared, in front of a video camera that had accompanied him on the inspection, that the answer is zero and stood his ground.
He picked up chalk and duster, walked up to the board, and wrote (-) + (-) = ‘what’. The teacher said the answer was (-). But the minister was in no mood to concede grounds, claiming that the answer to his question was (+), adding, “I have also studied science”.
According to Pandey, (-) + (-)= (+) in mathematics but (-) in Chemistry, a theory he seems to have propounded on his own. Another official, accompanying the minister, maintained a strategic silence, though perhaps realizing minister’s folly.
However, Pandey was least bothered by the correct response of the teacher. He sat in a chair, raised his finger, and endeavoured to draw his point once again home. Before leaving the classroom, he warned the teacher, “I am sparing you because you are a woman.”
Pandey was taken to task by the social media audience when his video made its way to Twitter and Facebook. The minister, in his defence, said that he didn’t wish to “disrespect” any teacher. Pandey said: “Neither the teacher nor the students were carrying any book. The teacher was teaching with the help of a “key”, a book with questions and their solutions.”
As word, and video footage of the 45-year-old minister visit got out, there was outrage at his behaviour with the school teacher and his understanding of basic mathematics.
The minister, who had defended himself on the first day and blamed the teacher for using a guidebook and not the prescribed textbook, went into damage-control mode the next day. On his Facebook page, the minister put out a video of another school inspection. In this one, the minister who had been criticised for being brusque with the teacher on Monday, appeared to be at his best behaviour.
But government teachers weren’t impressed.
Arvind Pandey also asserted that he didn’t have any affection for the minister’s post and was willing to resign if he was proven wrong.
On Thursday, associations of government teachers in several towns of Uttarakhand hit the streets to demand that the minister apologise. “The way he spoke… it was an insult to the entire teaching community,” a teacher at a protest in capital Dehradun told NDTV.
The Congress, which had been wiped out in the February assembly elections, also jumped in. Alluding to the many criminal cases that the minister faces, Lalit Joshi of the Congress said if one were to review his antecedents, it would be clear that he shouldn’t be where he is, but somewhere else.
Late on Thursday, the education minister put out another message on Facebook, promising that his intentions were good even if they disagreed with his style of functioning.