By Dr. Aadil M. Nanda and Dr. Rafi Ramzan Dar
GONE are the days when our educated youth were viewed as a potential human resource waiting to be tapped. In the days of yore, they were role models for guiding the nature of social change in terms of their capability to socialize society in its moral, cultural and intellectual dimensions. Nowadays, educational administrators at the helm of affairs continue to produce morally and ethically degraded generations of students, who lack efficiency, skill and also the interest to cope up with the ever increasing demands of society. Never before has higher education sector in Jammu and Kashmir been pushed into abysmal negligence as it has been since recent years.
Students in government-run degree colleges across the UT pay hefty fees every year but their education and academic growth hardly shows any progression. Students’ core competencies in their academic disciplines are coming down rapidly. The add-on skills and peripheral competencies are concomitantly becoming negligible. The teacher-student ratio in government degree colleges is tragically high. Giving individual attention to students in general, and addressing the needs of exceptional (differently-abled) students, is a rare possibility when teachers in higher education are overcrowded with attending to core subjects, skill based courses and generic electives, apart from their administrative over-occupations. What comes out is a lacklusture response to education, syllabus hardly gets completed – of course, except in the fabricated reports of the college principals –and students get a substandard degree of graduation. Our colleges are acutely short of faculty, more than 1000 teaching vacancies exist, if the UGC norms are given any attention. Despite, depressing financial situation of most of the families and non-existence of offline classes and examinations, colleges and Kashmir University authorities continue to fleece full admission fee and examination fee from students. Isn’t it sheer injustice with these students? Do they get what they pay for? Since colleges officially opened for class work on 15th Feb 2021, when will authorities hire teachers for them? Employing 1/5th of the required faculty isn’t an example of great governance and display of concern for students.
Instead of sorting out the situation and acting as navigators to steer the course of students already sailing in a sinking ship, the concerned authorities are unable and unwilling to understand or feel the gravity of the situation. The permanent teachers are putting up excuses of extra workload because of the shortage of adequate faculty and the contractual ones come up with their reasons for irregular engagements and disengagements. As a result poor students who are at the receiving end suffer. Do they deserve to suffer?
The situation has been rendered more vulnerable and dilapidated by the office bearers right from the levels of respective college principals to Nodal Principal as well as Director Colleges and the Secretary of Higher Education. All these men and women at the helm of affairs have developed a complex amalgam of egos and self-centered motives, known to them only, where in every single individual from the departmental administration as well as from the teaching faculty (both permanent as well as contractual) is instigated to create the mess and add further fuel to the fire.
Who is Responsible?
The time consumption of many years and irregularity in the recruitment process of Assistant Professors through J&K Public Service Commission has created voids in the higher education system. These were supposed to be filled by the contractual faculty but meager wages as well as irregular nature of the contract has rendered the services of these contractual teachers ineffective and generated disinterest amongst these highly qualified but underemployed youth.
In order to overcome the menace of their temporary nature of job and assure some reliable support to their families, the concerned contractual teachers knocked the door of law for continuation of their services, despite the fact that they produce an affidavit every year not to claim any regularization. The honorable court gave these contractual teachers some respite to maintain the status quo. A never ending chaos started right from here.
Had the honorable court gone through their case while considering the significance of upholding merit and fairness in distributing rewards, it would have straightway dismissed their pleas. What the honorable court did actually added to the existing confusion. It emboldened the less meritorious candidates to explore the backdoor window of litigations, besides it greatly disincentivized the urge for higher qualification and merit. Why would a Person A undertake the arduous journey of doing PhD or Post Doc in a challenging and competitive environment, when the Person B – less competent and unwilling to enhance merit by coming out of his comfort zone – can join a contractual job after agreeing its temporary character at the outset, and later claim permanency of the job. Does their written affidavits pledged before 1st Class Judicial Magistrate mean anything to our judicial authorities? Many of our colleagues regret the decision of wasting precious years in doing research in reputed institutes of the country when their friends joined the department with mediocre capabilities and later hijacked the system through a legal route. Is it justice and fairness? Is it how the authorities in judiciary and executive intend to overhaul the higher education system and bring it at par with the global standards? Is it why the idea of status quo interim relief was conceived in the first place?
As time passed, the status quo case seemed to spread further and establish its roots deeper. It became a Frankenstein monster. It will kill its very architects, apart from the society. Had this grave problem been approached honestly and dealt with efficiently by the authorities at a proper time, some fruitful results would have been witnessed and examples would have been set. But the irony is that nobody took it seriously until it landed our whole system in a deep crisis. As a result of the inability of higher authorities, selfishness of low merit candidates, and inefficiency of judiciary the careers of thousands of highly qualified and meritorious candidates are at stake. This has not only led to their individual depressions and frustrations but also uncountable suffering of their families as well.
The days are not far when the higher education system is going to collapse in Kashmir and the worthless degrees so distributed won’t be enough to fulfill the students’ requirements especially in rapidly changing technological world.
Need of the hour is to leave aside all the grudges and egos and take the matter seriously and develop some substantial and feasible mechanism as per standard norms of UGC, so that careers of thousands of students who pay for their education and those of the teachers as well won’t be at stake any more. Let’s hope that better sense prevails for the sake of raising the standards of our higher educational system.
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
- Dr Adil is a Postdoctoral Researcher and Dr Rafi teaches geography at GDC Kulgam
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.