Only a sincere dialogue will solve the ReT mess

Naeem Akhtar, Education Minister in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, claims that he is “guardian of 16 lakh students” and has vowed to go ahead with the government’s proposed screening test for Rehbar-e-Taleem (ReT) teachers. He is on record saying that the protest demonstrations and sloganeering will neither deter him nor force him change his mind.

 

This issue raises three critical points: one, why did the previous governments appoint ReT teachers without any screening test? Doesn’t this indicate systemic rot and raise serious doubts about the credibility and integrity of recruiting agencies? Two, why are the teachers scared of any screening test? Doesn’t this reflect ‘lack of confidence’ in teachers often referred to as ‘builders of the nation’? Three, why is the police dealing with protesting ReT teachers as if they are the most wanted criminals?

 

If the government, as per its claim, wants to bring education on the right track and its sole aim is not to disgrace the teaching community, one would like to know why the government did not take the ReT teaching community into confidence before going public with the screening test move. Wasn’t it important to let the teachers know that the government intends to bring a transparent system in place?

 

It is a welcome step if Naeem Akhtar wants to improve education system and aims to make parents feel proud of admitting their wards in government schools, but he should not remain blind to the fact that all missionary schools and elite English medium schools in Srinagar and major towns of the Kashmir valley have become dens of corruption, where a student admitted in pre-nursery and nursery is charged between INR 70,000 to 100,000 in the name of admission fee? Isn’t this brazen corruption and commercialisation of education? Isn’t this a bribe camouflaged as ‘admission fee’?

 

A common Kashmiri would want to know from the education minister what his plans are to stop this shameless and blatant corruption thriving in broad day light!

All said and done, the pragmatic solution to the prevailing problem of ReT is to appoint a committee of credible members of the civil society which will hold rounds of deliberations with representatives of the ReT teaching community. Only a meaningful dialogue will sort out this mess. Deadlock, protests by teachers, crackdown by the police, obstinacy and rigidness on part of the government, etc, will not solve anything. One can only hope that better sense prevails.

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