Why These Students In Bihar Had To Go On A Hunger Strike Right Before Graduation

Posted by Amrita Singh in Campus Watch
April 22, 2017

While most final year college students around the country were enjoying their last few days in college, students enrolled in B.Sc. B.Ed. and B.A. B.Ed. courses in the Central University of South Bihar were protesting. This is because one year after taking admission in the University, they found out that their degree is invalid since the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE), a statutory body that oversees standards, procedures and processes in the system of training teachers, doesn’t recognise it.

In August 2012, a Supreme Court-appointed high-powered commission under former Chief Justice of India J. S. Verma released several recommendations to improve the quality of teacher education in India. One of these recommendations was “revamping existing programmes of teacher education and moving to four-year integrated programmes after 10+2 or two-year programmes after graduation within a stipulated time frame.” The Supreme Court bench of Justices G. S. Singhvi and S. J. Mukhopadhaya passed an order stating that the recommendations “deserve to be accepted.” Hence, the integrated B.Ed. programmes were started in CUSB in 2013.

Students on a hunger strike. Image source: Prince Kumar Mishra/Facebook

Since the Ministry of Human Resource Development had ordered various universities to start these courses, the CUSB thought that getting recognition from the NCTE wouldn’t be difficult. A senior faculty member of the University explained why it didn’t get recognition from the University in spite of being a Central University, “As the four-year integrated programme was a new and innovative programme at that time, NCTE didn’t have the norms for it. In 2013, the NCTE’s website, where Universities are to apply for recognition, didn’t have the provision to apply for our programmes which were started on the orders of the MHRD itself. So, all Universities who started this programme had the impression that maybe they don’t need the NCTE’s approval as the MHRD had ordered them.” According to the professor, the University then applied offline and has been in talks with the NCTE ever since. The NCTE was cooperative with the university all along and had agreed to find a solution.

Image provided by author.

When the NCTE had the norms in place for the course, the University applied for recognition again and hence, the batches that joined from 2015 onwards, their degree is considered legal but the first two batches of the programme, the batches that joined in 2013 and 2014, they still don’t have recognised degrees. According to a student, “The University administration still constantly assured us that things would work out and we believed them but now the batch that joined in 2013 is supposed to pass out in a few days, and no headway has been made. They won’t be able to apply for jobs. So, we had to protest.”

Students had written to the MHRD and the NCTE regarding the matter but didn’t receive any response, so 14 students sat on an indefinite hunger strike from April 17, 2017. The strike was only called off last night on April 21, 2017, as the University gave them written assurance that if the matter goes to court, the University will take responsibility.

The faculty member informed Campus Watch that on April 20, 2017, the Vice Chancellor of the University met with the Minister of Human Resource Development, Prakash Javadekar, who assured him that the ordinance to amend the NCTE Act would be passed as soon as possible. The University is hopeful to see the result in the next 35 days, before the first batch of the course graduates.