New Delhi: While addressing media in a press conference today at Press Club of India Azharuddin (General Secretary SIO of India) said, “The Constitution of India guarantees education as a fundamental right of every Indian citizen. However the sad reality is that even after more than seven decades of independence, the Indian education system has failed to deliver this fundamental right to its citizens. While there exist a number of systemic issues plaguing the education system, the onus is on the government to timely address these issues however we find the government to have largely failed in its duties in this regard.”

Azhar further added, Currently across the nation, there is an educational crisis. From school education to higher education, there is an urgent need to address these issues. Summarised below are the major issues:

• JNU: The administration had proposed fee hike that would see 300 percent increase in fees for hostel, mess, and amenities.

• IIT – Bombay: 300 percent hike in fees had been proposed by the administration in September 2019, that also includes withdrawal of monthly stipend of ₹. 12,400.

• IIT-BHU: Students refused to receive their degrees from Union HRD Minister during convocation in protest against the MHRD’s decision to hike fees.

• Ayurvedic colleges in Uttarkhand: The Uttarkhand government in 2015 decided to increase fees by 170 percent, which the Uttarkhand High Court struck down in July 2018 and directed that the fees collected be refunded. Lack of compliance with the HC’s directive has lead to wide-spread protests by students since early October 2019.

• MANUU: Students protested against fee hike, water shortage, lack of health services and other amenities. Protests ceased when the administration caved and promised to address the students’ concerns.

• IIT-Madras: An 18-year old student committed suicide citing harassment and discrimination on religious grounds in suicide note. This was the fifth suicide in the campus in last one year.

• The Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) issued notification in August 2019 increasing exam fees, which depending on the category, ranges from double to 24 times.

• The government of Telangana constituted a committee to look into feasibility of revising the distance parameter of neighbourhood schools in the RTE Act. This might result in closure of almost half the government schools in the state.

Muzakkir Ahmed (Director CERT) put the demands to government infront of media saying “The hikes in the fee will be catastrophic to the students and their parents to say the least. As many students hail from disadvantaged backgrounds (economical, geographical as well as socio-historical). In this regard we would like to present our suggestions and demands to resolve the current educational crisis:

• SIO and CERT stand in solidarity with the students across the nation and demand that students’ demands be met by the authorities.

• We also condemn in strongest possible terms the violence against the students demanding their due share.

• All hikes in fees must be withdrawn unconditionally, be it in central universities, IITs/IIMs or CBSE schools.

• Government spending on education: The current expenditure on education by the central government for the fiscal year 2019-20 comes to about 0.45 percent of India’s GDP and the share of spending on education is a paltry 3.4 percent of the total government spending. Government spending on education must be increased to 6-7 percent of GDP annually (pegged to GDP), with corresponding increases in funds for public education system (both school and higher education), research, innovation and development.

• Preventing commercialisation: Education is a ‘public good’ and consequently it requires that it must be equally accessible to all and any obstacle in its achievement is a clear violation of the constitution, such as commercialisation. Private institutions have a parasitic relationship with the inefficient public education system. Addressing the issue of commercialisation is vital. While privatisation can be rationalised given the burgeoning demand and the limited capacity of the government to respond to it, the commercialisation aspect runs counter to the very idea of public good nature of education, as envisioned in the constitution and national education policies since the independence.

• Funding & Autonomy: While the need for operational autonomy is important aspect of decentralisation, lessening the burden and streamlining, the rationale for burdening these educational institutions to generate their own funds confounds logic and reason. Such a measure incurs significant social costs in terms affordability, equity, and accessibility. As educational institutions obviously lack any source of generating funds commercially, the only recourse left is to generate from the students in form of fees. In such a scenario, autonomy will in fact inevitably result commercialisation of educational institutions and a marked reduction in the accessibility. The government must undertake the responsibility to seed funds for autonomous educational institutions, be they related to school education such as CBSE or higher education such as UGC. In turn, these institutions must support the public educational institutions to sustain and prevent commercialisation.

• Rising costs, rise in assistance: If rising costs were in fact such a concern that justified these hikes, then it begs the question why weren’t there proportional hikes in various scholarships, fellowships and assistantships that the government provides? After all, students as non income-generating demographic are more susceptible to vagaries of inflation. This raises the question not only about the priorities of the government but also its sincerity. If funds were in such short supply then how does the government manage to procure funds for gimmicks such statues, expenditure for changing names of places, writing off bad loans?

• Islamophobia and Hate Violence: The rising instances of discrimination and hate violence on the grounds of religion is worrying. Hate content directed against specific religious communities is exacerbating the situation. The institutional murder of Fathima Latheef exposes deep Islamophobia and steps must be taken to ensure protection of minorities against hate through appropriate legislation.

Dept of media
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