Education System in Kashmir craves for reforms

Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander

Education is meant to inculcate ideal values among the students in order to prepare them to be contributing, productive and progressive citizens of a nation. Education is the backbone of every country. The more educated a country is more the chances of its being a leader in the comity of nations. Every country allocates a certain portion of its budget for the education, reduction of illiteracy and the seriousness of any country towards education is testified by the proportion of its budget allocation. The more a country invests in education the better it can baffle with the challenges of vices like ignorance, superstitions and injustice.

India after freedom has progressed by leaps and bounds and education too has spread to all its nooks and crannies, but it has resulted in bringing down the rates of illiteracy rather than spread of education. The two terms literacy and education are mostly confused with each other, but they have a huge difference. Literacy is the ability of a person to read, write and speak a certain language whereas education constitutes the overall development of body, mind and soul. This holistic development of citizens continues to evade most literate persons.

The ‘productive’ crop of millions of literate that our educational institutions produce are ill conceived, half baked and ill prepared ‘educated’ souls that alone constitutes the biggest flaw of our educational system. It is a complex problem that needs a multipronged strategy to rectify the wrongs. The shortcomings in our education system results in our products being deformed, ill prepared and non concerned to baffle with the challenges of higher values of life, like truth, justice, compassion, empathy, mercy and productivity among the students for which they can stand up in their lives and struggle. Instead most of them retrograde towards baser instincts and are easily tempted by superstitions and other vices.

In order to right the wrongs a complete overhauling of education system along with the drastic evolutionary changes, are needed to be implemented time and again in a systematic manner. The flaws, challenges and shortcomings need to be corrected in a three pronged strategy at three different levels if we want our educational system to be a positive contributing cornerstone of the society.

Administrative Rectification

Every educational setup needs a hierarchal system that can streamline the process of education through the web of schools, teachers and administrative clerical staff. Once a teacher is selected and appointed by the recruiting agency he/she has to pass through a vicious cycle of corruption that becomes the first exposure of the fresh candidate with corruption. Then from the issue of formal orders to the allotment of budget every month the teachers are made to part with their hard earned money by clerks. The transfer of teachers is a big source of corruption. Even teachers are willing to pay for the transfers to places of their choice.

The other reason of ill functioning of education system is the privatization of this sector. The Directorate of School Education (DSE) is involved in granting recognition to the private schools that function like business houses earning profits rather than imparting quality education. Numerous private schools are being run in sub human conditions with no proper classroom and other facilities that make them non conducive for teaching. But they continue to run for decades because the inspecting teams of the department are paid huge bribes to grant them renewal of recognition, by turning a blind eye to the flaws.

The teachers in these private schools are paid meager amounts of money as salaries and exploited by the owners of these schools. No labour laws are applicable in this case that can give respite to these teachers. The condition is worst for female teachers as they are paid less salary as compared to their male colleagues. This sheer exploitation continues unabated and no government seems serious to put an end to this discriminatory practice. Further the parents are made to pay the hefty amounts of money on different pretexts by the private schools for which there is no process of accountability.

The recruitment system of the government education system should be meeting highest standards in order to choose the best candidates. It has been improving the standards of recruitment but those selected directly without examination over long probation periods on merely contractual basis as Rehbar e Taleem (ReT’s) have ruined the working environment of the department. Most of them have been appointed without proper screening of their credentials. The Zonal Educational Officers (ZEO) and their administrative staff are responsible for this mess. Many among them had taken huge bribes to recruit the candidates as ReT’s throwing the procedures for appointments to winds. The ReT recruitment if probed thoroughly will prove to be a great scandal that the successive governments have tried to overlook. The ReT was a state policy to engage more and more youth without conducting any exam or interview in order to determine the competence of candidates to teach. But this fact cannot be undermined that many ReT’s have rendered yeoman service in teaching students at far flung areas and delivering more classes than the permanent ones, because it is a brutal fact that the contractual teachers are exploited by one and all because they are always under the duress of being terminated.

Further to add insult to injury the departmental promotion of teachers to Master grade just on the basis of seniority and experience and further promotion of Masters to Lecturers without any departmental examination proves disastrous for teaching. We are handing our future to the incompetent teachers who are misfit to teach. If an examination for Masters is conducted I bet that a majority of them will fail to qualify

The clerical corruption nexus is so strong in the department that it is near to impossible to get the work done without greasing the palms of the clerks. Still the teachers who are posted in high schools have to bear lesser brunt than those at the middle schools because their pay, service books and all other essential documents are handled at the zones. If they try to stand against or raise a voice against corruption, they have to bear the music of clerks, who make them move from pillar to post over small trifling issues. Also the threat of tampering the service books of candidates looms large like Damocles sword over their heads. I remember an example of a friend who made it a point not to bribe the clerk and she still is suffering at her hands and even the Principal of her school is helpless before a petty clerk.

During the 1990s a number of people were appointed in the education department under SRO-43 as class IV employees, whether as orderlies, chowkidars, laboratory bearers, library assistants or safaiwalas. Some of them over years were promoted and became teachers particularly laboratory bearers and library assistants and in certain cases child care mothers are working as teachers. We still have matriculates working as teachers in the department, who are incompetent to teach.

The next comes the issue of infrastructure. Most of the government schools lack proper infrastructure and in many cases the funds that are allocated for the infrastructure development get lapsed due to non utilization and there is no accountability for the same. Plus the washroom and pure drinking water facility is improper in most schools. The Mid Day Meal (MDM) scheme of the central government has again proved a disaster and source of corruption in Kashmir because first of all the menu is not followed, the funds are not allocated on time and mostly teachers swindle the funds and then in reality Kashmiri students do not need MDM as most Kashmiris eat a balanced diet. So instead of MDM some other scheme that would be suited best for our students should have been implemented that would have proven more beneficial than MDM.

Further the ill conceived construction of washrooms in many schools; have led to diminishing classrooms and abundance of washrooms. The NGOs too have played their part in this growing menace of washrooms. In all these construction, renovation and building projects the hand of corruption cannot be ruled out.

 

Teachers: Builders of Nation of Scavengers of a Dead Society

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops”- Henry Adams.

A Teacher should be the most progressive elite of a nation. Teachers must be trend setters. The nation has bestowed a great task to a teacher to prepare generations of leaders in every field. The progress, vibrancy, productivity and moral health of a nation can be gauged from the status that a nation accords to teachers. The status of school teachers in Kashmir is pathetic. I remember many of my male friends stating that they feel ashamed to declare that they are school teachers. Others revealed to me that their girlfriends left them after they got a job as teachers.

There are many reasons for this apathy. One being meager salary and the other being few chances of indulging in corruption. So whosoever is a teacher has a hand to mouth existence, but it is a fact too that after the introduction of MDM, Rashtriya Madhmik Shiksha Abiyaan (RMSA), Sarva Shiksha Abihiyan (SSA) corruption has too crept into the department that was once supposed to be corruption free.

Most of the candidates selected as teachers have not adopted it as the profession of first choice. They have just landed in the department out of chance or sheer luck, thus the aptitude that teaching demands is missing. When the aptitude of teaching is missing they have no love for books and how can they inculcate the same among the students? I have found few teachers studying books, except the prescribed text books that have been revised long back. The teachers use a certain reference or guide, dictate the answers to questions given at the end and the students cram them, sit in exams and pass the tests with below average grades. The teachers particularly of high schools are happy if the pass percentage is 33% because they are saved from their increment being withheld.

The bookish knowledge is essential but beyond books they know nothing because they love to spend time in gossip rather than in reading. Thus I was very well advised by a senior teacher that my creative potential will soon be rendered blunt and I would become a lazy sloth because teachers have a lot of free time at their disposal as compared to other departments. The reading is abhorred and creativity is discouraged among teachers.

Even the department seems unconcerned about developing and harnessing the creativity of teachers except organizing the boring, unimpressive trainings that are being conducted by the District Institute of Educational Training (DIET)s time and again to disburse the budget rather than acquaint the teachers with new pedagogical trends.

Also there is no facility or leave allowance offered to teachers for attending academic conferences or workshops within and outside state because even the department thinks that teachers are not capable of discussing and writing on serious issues. To add insult to injury if one is invited to a foreign country, the redundant British system of obtaining a station permission is mandatory and in reality it is granted to none and even if granted one has to wait till eternity or again indulge in corruption. Due to this red tapism and impediments I missed many opportunities to attend many international conferences and workshops giving me an additional reason to quit the job sooner the better.

Any new idea is grossly opposed and discouraged by the senior teachers who try to downplay it by stating that they are new to the department and it has been going on like the same since many decades. Any change in the statusquo is not welcome, that kills the enthusiasm of the freshly recruited desiring any change. The new aids of teaching learning methods and pedagogical practices are in vague as the teachers themselves are not aware of the same. Also if there is some painting, drawing, music or writing competition the teachers are unwilling to accompany the students, they certainly are not interested in the holistic development of children.

To add insult to injury the freshly recruited candidates are given different charges alongwith teaching without any proper training. Thus they are in no manner able to do justice with the tasks assigned. The biggest problem with teachers is that they fail to impress the students as role models. When they are demotivated themselves how can they inspire the students for higher goals in life? When a teacher does not deliver well in school and opens a tuition shop or asks students appearing in examination to pay for being helped or mass copying how can teachers justify the claim of being noble professionals?

In many schools due to few on roll students teachers make fictious roll about students by paying the fee themselves of non existing students to save the school from shutting down or being clubbed. During examination few teachers also purchase examination centers by bribing the staff so that their students can pass the exams and save their increment and transfer. Further, some teachers are irregular and unpunctual when it comes to the duties! Others who are ‘influential’ use the influence to depute or attach themselves to jobs where they can enjoy at leisure. Their commitment towards work is least naturally their impact is diminutive. Even at schools the teachers find a lot of time for gossip that could certainly be utilized for the benefit of society. The teachers of government schools have failed to inspire students and become role models that would help in creating a better progressive future.

Students: The Future of a Nation

The students of any nation are its strength, its future visionaries and torch bearers of its destiny. The teacher is responsible for molding the raw minds of the students and prepares the future leaders inculcating the values of truth, justice, freedom, love and tolerance among them. The students also need to have the willingness and aptitude that can imbibe these qualities that make humans the best of the creations. In government schools, the students mostly belong to the lower strata of society that is least concerned about education and its prospects with certain exceptions. The parents that play the most important role in education and imparting values to their progeny are least concerned about the education of their wards in government schools. Most of them do not deem education as a ladder towards success that can help them break the vicious cycle of poverty, illiteracy and backwardness. It results in high drop out rates.

Due to the least money involved in the education of their wards, the parents are not bothered about the quality of education imparted in government schools. When requested for a parent-teacher meeting, most parents prefer to stay away but they are omnipresent if the educational scholarships or MDM is concerned. Hence scholarships and MDM are motivators for many parents, but they have failed to improve the drop out levels and quality of students in these schools. Thus parents are also responsible for the degraded and pathetic conditions of government schools.

It is an unfortunate reality too that many schools are running just because of the presence of non local students of seasonal laborers and migrants in these schools. The apathy of government schools lies not only on the shoulders of administration and teachers, the parents are also responsible. The parents abhor from sending their children to government schools and a ripe notion is prevalent among masses that the education imparted in these schools is ill standard. The clubbing of schools has failed to improve the standards of education. The parents need to be more aware about the necessity of education and involved in the education of their children as active agents, only then can the teachers and administration become more vibrant.

Conclusion

The rot in the education system of Kashmir is deep, systematic and institutional. It has further been reinforced by the apathy of people associated with this sector. A fatalist view that even many insiders uphold is that nothing positive can emerge in the education system, but certainly change can take place but in an evolutionary manner with sustained commitment not with a hotchpotch of soda water effervescence and revolutionary measures.

To curb the rot one needs social transformation too, because unless we elevate our souls to overcome our baser instincts like greed, materialism and hedonism we cannot produce better teachers and administrators who are judicious and honest. The status of a school teacher is the most despised particularly for males in the society. The status of a teacher needs to be upheld supreme and they should start behaving like the role models in the society.

The strong clerical nexus needs to be broken down only that can put curb on the corruption that mars the education department. A proper scrutiny for appointing and promoting teachers through departmental exams should be put in place, regular monitoring of creativity of teachers should be undertaken and DIET trainings alone will not help. The teacher should be the most well read and enlightened section of the society and the love for books is a testimony of this fact.

The teacher-student ratio in most schools of Srinagar is highest and there are some schools where only ‘influential’ ladies are placed, who have not been transferred since decades. The deadwood among teachers certainly needs to be removed. The parental teacher meets and community involvement in schools needs to be made more vibrant. The infrastructure needs to be improved at many places and government schools need to be made more attractive for the common masses too.

The Allahabad High Court judgment ordering government servants to enroll their wards in government schools can prove to be a landmark judgment if implemented in letter and spirit in improving the conditions of education department. If changes are introduced from time to time the situation is destined to improve and future will be a witness whether the rot will further escalate or be curbed.

 

M.H.A.Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, who is also engaged as a government teacher and can be reached at sikandarmushtaq@gmail.com

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