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Idea no purl of wisdom

Hell hath no fury like a teacher separated from her knitting needles.

This was the discovery made by local government officials in the central Indian province of Uttar Pradesh this week, when they attempted to prevent teachers from knitting in the staffroom. New regulations have made it illegal for teachers to knit anywhere on school premises. Any member of staff found harbouring illicit needles, pins or balls of wool will face a fine of 100 rupees (pound;1.27). Repeated offences will lead to professional suspension.

Uttar Pradesh officials have insisted that there will be a full clampdown on all extra-curricular activities that may lead teachers to neglect classroom duties. Knitting has been grouped with other occupations, such as chewing tobacco or betel nut, which mark out the dissipated individual. O N Singh of the department of education, in Delhi, believes that teachers should avoid unnecessary distractions.

He said: "Teachers are not supposed to be knitting in school. They are supposed to be teaching."

But the ban has outraged the 400,000 teachers in Uttar Pradesh. Many female teachers belong to poor families and rely on staffroom knitting to produce clothes for their children.

The Uttar Pradesh Secondary Education Teachers' Association has denounced the move as dictatorial. R.P. Mishra, its district president, said: "The state government order will only provide another tool in the hands of corrupt education department officials, to harass teachers and extort money from them."

Any British government attempts to seek a knitting clampdown here would meet with similar outrage according to a National Union of Teachers spokeswoman: "It would be an insult to teachers' professionalism," she said. "Teachers are in classes teaching, not knitting."

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