Renewed Attacks on Education and Educational Institutions in South Asia
Nalini Taneja writes from New Delhi:
Teachers all over the country are up in arms against the renewed attacks of the BJP government on education and educational institutions. These attacks have taken the form of disinvestment in education through various means, both at the level of school education and higher education, an attack on the autonomy of educational institutions and their statutory bodies, and the saffronisation of syllabi in school education while also pushing through of saffron courses in the Universities. These attacks are rooted in the government's bid to saffronise and privatize in keeping with its over all policy of liberalization and cut in subsidy on all welfare expenditure.
Teachers' bodies have registered the fact that these attacks not only undermine the service conditions of the teachers, but are a reflection also of the government's bid to change the equations between an educated-literate elite and the polity by creating a pliant society and divesting the large majority of the Indian people from the right to a meaningful education. Protest has been expressed through statements by various teachers' bodies all over the country, notably the AIFUCTO and the FEDCUTA, apart from the schoolteachers federation and teachers associations of universities like the Delhi University and the JNU.
Disinvestment in education comes in the form of actual budgetary cuts in education, and in the form of willingness to go along with the World Bank-WTO regime in opening up the education sector to foreign players. By becoming party to the system of supra-national 'agreements' that seek to divide the world into buyers and sellers of knowledge, and in the name of offering a so called level playing field to everyone interested in 'promoting' (read investing for profit) education the state can happily withdraw from the educational sector, and in the process hand over our key areas of learning to foreign corporations out to transform education into the highest profit making service sector. Despite not officially adopting it, the government has in effect been following the prescriptions of the Ambani - Birla Report in promoting private funding in higher education, gearing higher education to needs of the corporate sector and forcing self financing market friendly courses in universities at the cost of liberal education which has to bear the brunt of the effects of the much flouted "resource crunch".
What is not so well known is that even school education has been brought under the ambit of this 'opening up'. The Doha ministerial meeting on November 21, 2001, had resolved that "Participants shall submit initial request for specific commitments by June 31, and initial offers by 31 March 2003." However, while negotiations under GATS are still in progress, the Ministry of Human Resource Development by a circular dated January 24th 2002, circulated by Mr. Eduardo Faleiro Congress MP in the context of his "Special mention" in Parliament, granted permission for foreign qualifications to be provided in schools. Apart from adversely effecting national priorities in educational content, the process would create enormous disparities between the existing public schools that will become the first to be geared to such networks and the more ordinary schools that will wilt in the face of resource crunch and withdrawal of the state from education and whose students will not be able to shell out the kind of fees required for hitching on to such bandwagons should they also desire to emulate their more privileged peers.
The much flaunted 93rd Amendment Bill making Education a fundamental right falls short of its stated aim through the provisions that it failed to provide for despite popular protests, but even so such as it is, it has little chance of becoming a law. In other words it falls short even on stated declarations as despite being passed by both houses of parliament it has been decided by the government to not put it up for approval to the president and even were that to be achieved in some late future, the Bill states that it further has to be incorporated as a law before education becomes a fundamental right even on paper (leave alone in practice and in policy). Given that so many months have passed since its passage through both houses, no allocations of funds have been made for it.
CUTS IN POSTS
Related to withdrawal of the state from funding education is the cut in posts, refusal to fill up existing posts, increase in workload of existing teachers to artificially create surpluses where in actual fact there is requirement for more teachers, refusal of re-employment to teachers, and more shockingly a directive to make do with guest lecturers in colleges and universities, and para teachers in schools. To top it all is the declared policy to dismantle the entire formal system of education in favour of the non-formal stream or distance education. All recent moves of the government in regard of these must be seen in this context.
In Universities and colleges throughout the country teachers have been forced into increasing the number of periods per week in the name of academic accountability. This has unfortunately been accomplished in most state universities, while central universities are being intimidated now to accept the same. In the case of central universities, the UGC has recently declared that posts lying vacant for more than a year are not to be filled. If a college or university has managed without these posts for a year it can jolly well continue to do so as it has already shown that it can manage without filling the vacant posts-that seems to be the understanding of the education ministry.
The letters sent by the UGC to the Delhi University and all its colleges dated 19.7.2002 and 23.7.2002 directing them to only fill 80% of the vacant posts on a temporary basis only and announcing a freeze on recruitment, ban on creation of posts at all levels, 10% cut in staff strength along with abolition of all posts vacant for more than a year have caused a complete panic because all this added together means the government sees 35% teachers in the university as already surplus. In practical terms there is already a stalling and cancellation of appointments and selection committee meetings in many colleges, and the regular academic programme of the colleges has been severely affected from the beginning of the academic year itself as several of the scheduled classes cannot be met for lack of teachers. Ostensibly to ensure maintenance of standards of instruction, the above-mentioned letters are having precisely the opposite effect and their timing at the beginning of the new academic session just after thousands of new students have taken admission to courses prescribed by the Delhi University has only added further to the academic disruption.
The UGC's attempt to impose arbitrary workload norms, unmindful of academic requirements, undermines the very basis of the university system. Through gross abuse of its powers as the funding agency, the UGC has threatened colleges with cuts in grants in case they do not submit to its directions in the matter. Several colleges have willingly or reluctantly surrendered to daily intervention by the UGC in their affairs. As a result, a large number of posts that are required to be filled under the workload norms laid down by the Academic Council are not being filled. More alarming is that a large number of teachers who have been working on ad hoc / temporary appointments, often for several years, would face retrenchment and a sizeable section of permanent teachers have already been declared surplus. Such downsizing of teaching posts and similar cuts in non teaching posts and refusal to grant teacher status to librarians will inevitably mean an absolute decline and down grading of the educational system as a whole, and difficulties in the maintenance of educational standards and efficient administration. It is also the most brutal form of disinvestments in education.
In school education, posts have not been filled over the last decade. In each state the number of such posts runs into thousands-in some cases forty to fifty thousand-which have been filled by so called para teachers from the area (in the name of community participation) who do not have the requisite qualifications and are paid a fraction of the salary due a teacher. One does not need much imagination to work out the consequences, particularly as it is quite well known how many other state and other social duties the teachers are required to perform, including election and census duties. This is massive and open disinvestment in school education, besides a huge cut in employment possibilities in the educational sector.
The so called National Curriculum Framework document, as well as the 93rd Amendment Act making education a fundamental right, are very clear that the state will only provide for such education as it can and that forms may vary. The government preference for the non-formal stream is very clear in the two documents, as is the provision for differential education "suitable" for different sections of students (vocational education for tribals and the backward classes and castes, and home making for girls); and with all the talk of gearing education to the needs of globalisation and provision for the state of the art technology in schools it is very clear that disparities even between and within the different streams of the government schools are being consciously designed so to increase, with the state concerning itself only with the privileged.
The great emphasis on distance education at a higher level and the euphoria over use of technology is designed to hide the fact that what is cheap for the government is costly for the individual student. The mantra of educational technology is being used to hide the trend of retrenchment and cuts in teaching posts and grants to libraries and for labs, of the erosion of the teacher-learner contact, of the opening up of the educational system to the ideological influences of those who will necessarily dominate the NET, most appropriately the course contents designed by western universities, and to undermine what are increasingly being considered by the right wing government as subversive activities of teachers and students unions by replacing these campuses with Open, virtual campuses where the student as well as teacher will be no different from the flexi-time worker in the west working from home, isolated and incapable of collective action and organisation.
The real and very valuable benefits of a moderate and judicious use of educational technology can be completely undermined in a set up where the majority of the students have no access to the internet and computer at home, and in a context where disinvestments and privatization of electricity and telephone, the breakdowns of electricity and massive power cuts could render all such euphoria unworkable, and where the language of such communicational signals is completely divorced from the everyday language of the majority of the students, and even teachers.
It is important to see the policy linkages between such 'advanced' priorities and the cuts in educational allocations, between the huge allocations of funds for 'linking up' and creating computerized networks and the cuts in teaching posts, between those envisaged as givers of knowledge in such a pattern of educational set up and those envisaged as its recipients. It is all part of a grand conspiracy that will yet enable the government to determine and control syllabi far more easily than it does today, just as private channels on the TV are but a replay and rehash of the government view.
Nalini Taneja teaches history at the University of Delhi.
Courtesy: People's Democracy
A Report in The Nation:
Lahore: A peaceful teachers convention against denationalisation of educational institutions at Islamia College for Girls, Cooper Road, on Monday was sabotaged by the police in an unprecedented lathi-charge, violence and arrests. Some 200 teachers including some women lecturers were arrested and booked under MPO 16. The school and college teachers including women were assembling at the lawns of the college to attend the convention and a rally, the 6th of its series against recent move of denationalisaton when the strong contingent of police cordoned off the area and
subjected them to worst lathi-charge and violence. In a sudden catch-and-hit spree, a number of women teachers belonging to city schools and colleges were injured and their clothes were torn apart. There was a hue and cry as the police chased and humiliated the teachers.
The Monday's action was surprising as the Police did not interfere in the teachers rally the 5th of its kind at Dyal Singh four days back. The convention was to start by 11 in the morning but the police broke into the college premises without any permission an hour earlier and started misbehaving with the teachers. They first took into custody some 8/10 female professors who were making arrangements for the convention. Prof. Raja Mehboob Hussain, an office-bearer of the Punjab Professors and Lecturers Association (PPLA) who was also present on the occasion had to scale the boundary wall of the college to escape the arrest. The police deputed outside the college premises attacked those teachers who were coming to attend the convention. Police took them out of their vehicles and threw them into the police vans. In a hurry, Police arrested some other persons passing through the site. An SDO of Irrigation Department and an accountant of AG office were also taken into custody.
According to details of arrests, police locked up 43 teachers at Civil Lines Police Station, 70 including nine women at Race Course and 32 at Qila Gujjar Singh police stations. Besides, the Chairman Joint Action Committee teachers of Punjab, Prof. Nazim Hasnain, the arrested persons also include prominent office-bearers of different teachers associations and unions. They were Rana Muhammad Arshad, Muhammad Azam Butt, Prof. Arif Ray, Saeed Sajjad Akbar Kazmi, Rana Liaquat Ali, Rai Ghulam Mustafa Riaz, Prof. Gul Rukh, Aziz Ahmad and Shafiq Butt. Prof. Mrs Mussadaq whom the police released after the detention of a couple of hours said that some policemen pulled her
out of the car in a crude manner when she was parking the vehicle outside the college. She was taken to Race Course Police Station. Later more female teachers were also brought there. She cried that at the police station, the female teachers were subjected to gross humiliation. Some female teachers were slapped by the policemen. It seemed that
there was no respect for women in the country. "Would anybody in the state machinery take stock of this situation," she asked. Another teacher who was also arrested told this scribe it was ironical that the police officials who were once their students subjected them to torture.Muhammad Shafiq Butt said that they were brought to the police station in a
manner as if they were goats and sheep. He said the police turned a deaf ear to the requests of even those teachers who were heart patients. The arrested teachers do not have any information about their vehicles that they were riding before their arrest.
Meanwhile, the Lahore District Bar President Ch. Nisar Kausar who visited the Race Course Police Station told newsmen that the Lahore Bar will seek justice from courts against the high-handedness of police. He said that lawyers were in league with the teachers in their protest against the privatisation of the educational institutions.The Qila Gujjar Singh police prohibited visitors meeting with the arrested teachers on the plea that they had been directed to do so by the higher authorities.
Later at a Press conference, Joint Action Committee Teachers of Punjab termed the violence against teachers as a worst kind of state oppression. They said that police in plainclothes just attacked the teachers outside the Islamia College and violated human rights by torturing male teachers and tearing clothes of female teachers.The Action Committee maintained that the teachers would not be intimidated by such tactics and they would continue their struggle. The committee announced next protest convention at Government Islamia College Civil Lines on August 1.They demanded of the government to withdraw its decision of denationalisation of educational institutions and establishing Board of Governors of public sector institutions. They also demanded removal from service of those police officers who were responsible for torturing the teachers. Islami
Jamiat-i-Tulba Nazim-i-Aala Engr Naveed Anwar in a statement condemned the violence against the teachers and added that teaching was the most respected profession throughout the world but in Pakistan teachers are facing state oppression.
The Nation, Online Edition, July 30, 2002.
In Bangladesh there has been considerable campus unrest following police high handedness on campuses, and the policy of the current regime to suppress political activities of students and teachers. Recently, Dhaka University was in complete turmoil after a late night police attack on girl students of Shamsunnahar Hall in Dhaka University when the police swooped on the agitating students leaving at least 50 students and six DU teachers injured. The police resorted to baton charge on the students and teachers who had gathered on the campus and lobbed several rounds of teargas shells on them. According to a report in The Independent, July 30, 2002, the police also raised rubber bullets on the students and teachers agitating for the resignation of the Vice-Chancellor and reopening of the university.
Later, when a half-day hartal was called in protest against the police atrocities, harassment of students and many people, including newsmen, was reported. More than 50 students and four teachers were reported injured as police fired around 150 teargas shells from riot car and several rounds of rubber bullets on them, and some 20 students were picked up. Some teachers were injured in the police beatings, and one Dr Anwar got his leg fractured and was admitted to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
The injured students include Sujat, Sampad, Nur Abdullah Saeed, Mafiz, Joy, Muyeed, Romel, Tanim and Rajiv. A third year student of Accounting, Sujat, suffered head injury after he was struck by one of the teargas shells that rained down on the campus. Newsmen of Daily Star and Dainik Probhat were also injured.
Following police excesses in Shamsunnahar Hall during the early hours of Wednesday, Bangladesh Chhatra League announced the hartal programme that was later supported by its parent organisation, the Awami League and other student groups including the Bangladesh Chhatra Union and the Bangladesh Chhatra Maitry.
Several student and teachers organisations affiliated to various groups gave a call demanding action against police atrocities, and the reopening of the University. A strike was observed on the campuses of all the educational institutions throughout the country.
The government on its part plans a blanket moratorium on student politics at all government and private colleges. Such a ban has already been in force at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), which according to the education Minister, Mr. Farruk, has encouraged the government to go for such a blanket moratorium. He said the ban would be first imposed on government and private colleges and later on different universities through discussion. This is in keeping with the general policy of this government. After coming to power, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia made a radical announcement at the parliament that her party, the BNP, would not hesitate to impose a moratorium on student politics to stop campus violence. And recently, an expert committee on education reform recommended keeping educational institutions totally free from politics. The committee said involvement of teachers and students in politics should be declared 'illegal'. The report also suggested some amendments to the University Act of 1973, which ensures autonomy for public universities.
BUET was the first to announce a moratorium for an indefinite period on campus politics. The announcement of ban on student politics at BUET has sparked widespread criticism. The Engineering University Central Students Union (EUCSU) protested the academic council's decision self-imposing this ban on the institution and termed it irrational and illegal. Leaders of different student organisations have also rejected the expert committee's recommendation for banning politics by students and teachers at educational institutions.
Based on reports in The Independent and Daily Star
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