SHILLONG | JUNE 03, 2020:
Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Education means the all-round drawing out of the best in child and man – body, mind and spirit".
At present, with the world fighting for survival, the act of slowing down for introspection is robbed. There is a mad rush. Online classes are in full swing, and assignments' deadlines are ringing wildly like alarm clocks. I am a teacher too, and I can understand the need to keep them occupied, but why does the act vivify the portrait of discrimination, biasness, differentiation, partiality, lob-sided prejudice? I agree, "Let the ones that are able to learn, learn". No one is blocking the genuine intention to teach and to impart. But why does it wear the mask of harassment, toppled by a Machiavellian ball? Isn't it ironic that at a time of the pandemic, buildings and shops let for rent, that are owned by either illiterate or by one of lower "Education" either has rent waived off or deferred payments because they can understand the crisis, but "HIGHLY EDUCATED" teachers are passively pressurising the parents of the students to buy smartphones (There are no smartphones below Rs.10,000 in the market at the moment), desktops and laptops plus wi-fi connection (courtesy of our network) to fulfil the mandatory completion and submission of assignments for the internals. This is what you call the 'genuine care'?!
Not all of the parents of the students studying in your institutions, no matter how posh they may be, come from a well-to-do family. Some parents sacrifice everything for the sake of the education of their children. Most of them are without government jobs, and if the 'educated teachers' or 'authority(s)' concerned are keen to read and observe, they should know the basic facts capsizing the economy of the entire world. Businesses are shut-down, the markets are closed, and trade and commerce are halted for months, courtesy of the lockdown!
Someone once said, "This is the time to approach everything with a human touch". A teacher is like a Cook at a wedding. He prepares the best kind of food items for the guests, but it's up to the guests to choose what to eat. The quantity of consumption is different from each and every single guest. The cook can only estimate an assumption of the amount, but cannot be certain. The guests do not go to the wedding just for the food itself. Some may. But there will not be a single guest who would skip eating. It's a natural process. And that is what academic life is all about. Not everyone can consume everything, but you cannot force anyone to, especially not on a time such as this. The cook is not sentimental if the guests choose to eat less. He might feel bad that a special item prepared has not been appreciated as much as he expected. Maybe they did not like it. Therefore, he tries to prepare it differently the next time around.
We cannot omit the fact that we have to move forward with time. We have to learn how to adapt. But is bookish knowledge enough? If so, then why are highly qualified people working for or under the blockheads that are running the state and country? Why is it that all these gigantic MNCs owned, and run by college dropouts? Why is our education system so one-dimensional? Why are we pretending like lives of the students are dependent on the syllabus? I do not understand the need of this bourgeoisie rush as if we are running out of time. The reality is, a sea of young people with degrees are still loitering jobless at home because our system only teaches us how to swallow and vomit. We are not given the time to digest what we learn. Students are always being put on the race-track irrespective of whether we can run or not. There is no choice. Run! Run, even if you die running, run! We are always being told that a beautiful destination is awaiting at the end of the finish-line. But when we get there, we end up being disappointed and unemployed. The promise of a good job and the dreams our teachers have taught to visualise is nothing but a lie. We hold our degrees like medals that are not going to feed our stomach. From aspirations of the life we worked so hard for, suddenly, we find ourselves being desperate and rudderless.
When we try to discuss about the truth, some are offended and would perceive our perception as too farfetched and preposterous. Preposterous is when you know that you still have time to make-do for the time lost in the pandemic, but will still choose to be inconsiderate just because you're holding the starting-pistol. We still have December, January and two weeks of February plus Saturdays, that could easily mend fences. Is it the holidays that most are worried about or the Saturdays that they will have to cheat their sleeping pattern? If the need arises, we can stretch the academic session further more. It is always better to do something right and proper, than to just do it for the sake of doing it.
Personally, I find the lockdown to be the best opportunity for the students to explore their hidden talents and nurture them. Our education system is squeezing the life out of the young ones. We have all been victims. We spend fifteen years of schooling, three years of degree, and two years of enhanced degree. I wouldn't really call it mastering. I cannot understand the need of a degree to be a peon, butler, driver, manual labourer and coolie. A cherry to top of this low-graded cake bought with expensive façade called 'education' is years and years of struggles because of unemployment or proper employment.
The Lockdown is also a jackpot of an opportunity for the parents to actually spend time productively with their children. The communication between the two generations is quickly depleting, and the lockdown is a brilliant way to reinstate the bond. While we witness the state's growth in "education", the irony is that we're plaque by lost in morality. When we talk of educational progress, let us discuss countries like Finland, Japan, South Korea, Denmark – the top leading countries in the world of education who stressed more on reducing the homework for the children to increase their productivity and creativity. Life skills is one of the main courses in the French educational system. Irrespective of gender, assignments on household chores are now deemed important by them. Philippines, have gone a step further and incorporated 'Tree Plantation' as a necessity for a student to graduate.
The crux of our present system is the bombardment of assignments for the sake of hollowed bragging rights. Most assignments are copy-pasted from the internet on the advice of the teachers, but, must be handwritten because they should "write it on your (their) own". The romantic logic of pen and paper is magical! On a serious note, what you call "STRICT" and the pseudo-urgency you create is nothing but mental, psychological, cognitive, financial and a perceptual discriminatory torture. A girl in Kerala torched herself up because of the incapability to access these online classes. Please, for once let us not be delusional to compare ourselves with the rest of the world, particularly not with the Developed Countries. India ranks 129th in the Human Development Index (HDI) released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 2019. Do not look so far, Sri Lanka in 71st position has a better rank than India.
Tagore wrote, "Where the mind is without fear, and the head is held high, where knowledge is free…"
Are we truly free lads?
For the last three years, my cry of education turning bourgeoisie has fallen on deaf ears. Every single year, it is quickly becoming impossible for the lower-middle class population to gain access to education particularly on good schools and colleges. They raise the bar of financial disparity so high that even the shadows of the lower-middle class cannot fall on their walls. The genesis exoduses in the form of forms that are sold like hot samosas month before the declaration of the results followed by ungodly admission fees. In a state where according to the RBI, State wise data (Retrieved 17th February 2017) the per capita income of an average citizen of Meghalaya is Rs. 79, 332/annum or Rs. 6611 per month, admission fees for the XI standard and above in most schools and colleges begins at a minimum of 20,000/ annum. St. Mary's is offering its B.Ed. course at Rs. 50,000 per annum while PGT is selling forms at Rs. 1000 per form to purposely discourage true aspirators of the degree just because in both the cases, it is a lot of money for anyone coming from the lower-middle class and lower.
According to an updated data, Meghalaya has 369 Higher Secondary sections, out of which 250 are regular and 119 are private, in contrast to only 67 colleges. The number of students that are dropping out of colleges is worrisome. We can blame the unprecedented increase in the fees as one of the major concerns. A ceiling mechanism is missing. Sanctioned schools and colleges must have a uniform fee structure that should reflect the per capita income of the people. A Government school(s) should not be allowed to reject a student based on the annual income of the parents as it has been happening.
The biggest joke to the mockery of the "Education" in our state is that we are talking about moving forward with time just because we are using technology that ninety percent of the rural folk (A statement made by Education Minister) are left out from. And not to mention the assumptive eighty percent that do not have an access to meet the needs because of the plethora of problems faced even when we turn a blind-eye to financial capability of the lot. Aren't we instead moving backwards in time to 19th Century India where only the elite upper caste and class can afford education?
In conclusion, from a mustard-seed teacher to teachers that are as tall as Mt. Everest, teach, inspire, motivate, captivate and cook the best meal that you possibly can for all of your children with undivided love. Do not put them on a collar tethered to the whims of your direction. And lastly, may you not be swayed by temptations of machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. Let us learn to first be humans – compassionate, sane, selfless and voice for what is right against what is wrong. Let us not judge the comfort of the myriad others by the comfort of the four walls of our pucca-houses. We are fortunate to not be able to know or see the sufferings and sacrifices that others have to go through. Let us not be heartless, inconsiderate and delusional, just because we are blessed differently. Most of us did not choose the life we have; it is being given to us.
While some of us are the Sun, let us also learn to lend our light to the Moon. Let us be blessed to be a blessing.
DISCLAIMER: This is a personal opinion. The opinion expressed in the article above belongs to the writer alone and TNT- The Northeast Today may not endorse the same views.