By Spoorthi Pema:
As we grow up we are told about amazing ideas like freedom, democracy and equality, and as we mature, we are taught to expect these things from society, if not then we are to fight for it, no matter what. Today I am in that stage of my life, where I have to choose between fighting for these ideals or letting go of my principles for the sake of what society expects of me.
The fact is that I have shortage of one day from the required attendance criteria of my university, and hence am required to repeat a year in order to be eligible for examinations. But, the question is whether wasting a year is just, for the sake of a rule that has long become irrelevant today, and whether the fact that I missed one class means I have lost my right to earn a degree for myself.
We still talk of traditional classrooms and education systems today, as a basic requirement to lead a decent living in the society. At the same time we also talk of how our country is in need of a mammoth change, without which all of society’s evils are going to be unheard, or rather heard and ignored. All historical changes that humanity has witnessed, has always come with fights and sacrifices.
I strongly believe that the change is to brought in into our education system, where the freedom to think, the right to question and the creative mind is not crushed in order to produce citizens ready to follow orders just for the sake of a monthly incentive called a salary. The fight against this train of thought has been my fight for the past three years in my college.
The time spent outside the traditional classroom, for which I have a shortage of attendance, has certainly been an unforgettable learning experience for me. The people that I have met have taught me tremendously, sharing real-life experiences and life lessons, rather than unrelated passages from an old rusty book. The time spent volunteering at the animal shelter and teaching at a local school has given me much more satisfaction and joy, even though it is of no value in the eyes of my college authorities. The examinations taken for the foreign languages I learn outside curriculum, the interviews I attend for fellowships with NGOs and the travels I endeavour in order to truly comprehend the real world, is all disregarded by the very education system that claims it creates ideal citizens with a potential to excel.
I have no degree in my hand now, yet I can confidently state that I am more educated and aware than those who have dutifully followed the norms of the university. I do not intend to look down upon all those who have unfaltering faith in a system, just because it has survived all this time, but I wish to voice out that all those old systems and beliefs need to be questioned and changed to fulfil today’s needs.
Instances of unfair treatment of women, corruption, bias based on caste, unfair public humiliation of students, misuse of power of the authority figures and bias based on status and bank balance, are all not uncommon to the everyday functioning of the college environment. I have stood up, most times alone, and voiced my disagreement for which not only have I been silenced but also slandered as a mere rebel and a ‘bad student’. The fact that I was alone most times is not because the students of the college don’t see what is wrong in the system, but it is because the system instils a fear in them that refrains them from exercising their freedom of speech.
I wish my grievances were tainted with motives of personal vengeance, but my fight is far greater than mere personal gains. The fight against a system whose priorities are misguided and in need of a complete transformation. If this fight means I lose a battle to earn a degree, then would it be right to let go of all my principles for the sake of a piece of paper stating the approval of the very system that I fight against.
It is most unfortunate that today the worth of a man is bluntly judged on the paper he owns, paper with either a university seal on it or with the picture of the Mahatma on it. The values, skills and the true education of a man is entirely disregarded. And to imagine how many great souls we must have disregarded, only for the simple reason that our system is faulty.
A system that feeds young minds with the idea that defeat of others is the success of the self. A student who competes for decades in the name of education, to be better than the rest of the class, and frowns upon those who ‘fail’, would obviously not be educated to be a part of a community that lays its foundations on mutual harmony. It is therefore not surprising that the students of this system are expected to confine themselves inside the four walls of the classroom, and those striving to contribute to the society are marked absent from class.
The very people who I trusted would impart knowledge and teach me all those tools I needed to be a part of the globalised world, are those who blindly feed this system. If I am rejected from this system, though I am to feel panic that I don’t hold a degree, I somehow hold the satisfaction that I have not become anything like the system.