Of late, I have been increasingly dismayed by the growing indignity in Indian Education. Somehow the very character of the system seems to be under great stress.
Take for example, the Manoj Mishra-ization of Indian education. This gentleman, lauded by the Times of India as one who is Leading a fight to get India’s truant teachers back in class, is a District Education Officer in Uttar Pradesh. The Times eulogy is deafeningly definitive.
As he walks along the dusty streets of the wheat-farming villages a couple of hours’ drive from Nepal, older people touch his feet in a sign of respect. Young women pull out their phones and take selfies by his side.
Mishra took it upon himself to reform teacher attendance. Faced with various problems, he has been unyielding in his efforts to get truant teachers back into school, resisting political pressure and threats to his life. His state education minister seems to be more than supportive too. He has had to resort to several unconventional methods.
By August 2014, when he showed up in Deoria, he was already causing a stir. He had been reprimanded for beating up three teachers with a stick because he believed they had landed their jobs using fraudulent documents. That episode made the headlines in the nearby city of Gorakhpur.
The punchline for the article is interesting. Mishra says:
…making teachers go to school is only one small step forward. Whether they teach or don’t teach, I can’t tell. But now, at least, they come to school.
Perhaps there is a certain indignity in both these realities – that teachers do play truant and that such totalitarian corrective measures are equally endorsed and vilified by a political class.
And then there is the indignity of our educational leadership.
Earlier, schools would be run by educationists for philanthropy. But now businessmen, property dealers and families run schools. They deal with teachers the way they would treat their other staff. They have made recruiting teachers as simple as hiring an office boy for just Rs 10,000 a month.
In fact, this is admission time – translation – the time when the coffers will get filled with soaring per seat rates for parents and new farmhouses are bought in cash.
Or the indignity against our educational leadership, as in the AMU case (and of which I have been personally a witness too, in another context).
His confirmation comes after a controversy broke out on social media that he was “humiliated” by Ms. Irani when he went to meet her as part of a delegation led by the Kerala Chief Minister on January 8, to seek her support for the off-campus AMU centre in Malappuram, which is “developing much slower than expected.
Or it is the radicalization of dissent, sharply polarizing the country, whether on caste or nationalist lines. I must point out A Syllabus on Sedition, an almost MOOC-ish effort to bring forward a repository of curated resources to frame the events at JNU and the Hyderabad Central University.
These indignities worry me. These are indignities, among many others, which our children face, everyday at school. In humiliating ourselves through our greed, quest for power and incompetence, we humiliate our children and propel them backwards in development of visionary thought, prosperity and power.
Perhaps this is not just an Indian phenomena, and that we are cursed into it because we are human. But that doesn’t make it any better, does it?