By Lata Jha:
To begin with, for most of us, they might not have been much more than just places we dragged ourselves to each morning, either because attendance was compulsory or because we just couldn’t do without meeting our friends. But over time, schools and colleges ceased to exist solely in order to be able to earn a degree and get a job. As clichéd as it may sound, they were the proverbial temples of learning. And a lot of times, didn’t just teach you lessons out of textbooks for exams, but ones that you could cherish for life.
Not that we don’t understand that it takes more than just a good soul to run an institution. As noble as we may be, resources make an institution and build its image. Facilities, faculty (who do not come without the fat pay check), fancy infrastructure and other frills are what sell today. But what’s alarming is that the need has gone beyond maintenance. Running schools and colleges is a business that takes as much sharpness and acumen as any other to reap profits.
While certain engineering colleges tried to salvage things for themselves by bribing AICTE officials last year for not meeting the minimum criteria of accreditation, a dental college in Chennai was in the news for doing, what it probably thought was, the needful to please a member of the Dental Council of India.
While this may be one, yet another, even more horrific side of the story, awaits us. Institutions have been known to not just offer bribes, but unabashedly accept them, in what may be considered, blatantly contrary to the principles of an educated society that knows its rights and duties. Loving parents who dote upon their often dim-witted wards pay hefty amounts to gain admission for them in the city’s most elite and sophisticated schools and colleges. In races that are clearly and unfairly beyond them, children with weak economical backgrounds lag behind.
Schools are known to nab more than just a couple of lakhs for admission in the plus two section. These are children from affluent families who might have moved to a different city or if the child had failed classes in another school. While some of it may actually go into enhancing infrastructure and upping facilities for the benefit of students, one does realize sadly that the need of the hour is to maintain an image. You can’t rank high in the Top 10s of hep magazines by taking a couple of thousands every three months, and still managing to look all glossy and cool. You don’t go down well with parents seeking “good, clean” schools for their lily-livered babies.
But a lot of times, this is about more than just image building. People are treating this as a way to make money. Authorities in charge at these institutions make huge amounts by doing people such ‘favours’.
Till very recently, this was news to me. As kids, no matter which school we went to, we were taught to respect all institutions. Money was no part of the moral fabric of education as a whole, and of institutions, just as much. But who are we to talk, really? When these people didn’t spare the God they worshipped in the temple, or the woman they said they worshipped at home, education is, I guess, another one of those realms that invariably become a part of the ballgame. Like those kids at schools who sulk but ultimately join the game.