Friday, August 31, 2007

Cancer In Our Schools?

One of the biggest flaws in the educational system of Kerala (for a while lets just imagine there is still a system) is that it is highly politicized, like everything else in Kerala, whether it is an organization, community, religious group, or probably, even the mind of the average Keralite. While politics is a necessary evil, it is quite evident that politicizing the youth at a time when they are quite naive (and full of energy to do better things) has only resulted in damage than anything constructive.

Schools and colleges are meant to be sacred, and supposed to impart quality education, nurture talent and creativity, help develop skills, and build the next generation that can take themselves and the nation forward with greater might and strength. Where does politics fit in such a place? It does not. I have seen so many people argue about the need for politics in campus and I feel they are just blind proponents of their own selfish interests or subversive minded political supporters. It is the same bunch of fools that oppose initiatives by even the Supreme Court (refer to the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations) to curb politics in educational institutions. Youth (supposedly) outfits of various political parties have cunningly tried to rubbish the report by trying to find loopholes within the recommendations, instead of understanding the larger message. Do we need more violence in campuses? Do we need many more Prof.Sabharwals dying? Do we need more of our youth to become pawns of our politicians?

While the presence of students representatives within every college and institution is very essential, linking and aligning them with political organizations and parties is the biggest blunder possible. Student-representatives will definitely help in nurturing leadership and harboring spirited and loyal youthfulness, but bringing in political alliances and support will only help in developing pawns and political mercenaries.

Its sad that such a pathetic system is already well-entrenched in our state, and most of India. It is the primary reason why we have uneducated and uncouth political leaders ruling over us, whose sole motive is filling their own pockets and promoting their own interests. It is the very reason why we have so much corruption, crime, and immorality splashed allover. It is the reason why most of the energy in India's youth remain misdirected. It is also the very same reason that voters are left without a choice, and why voters are caught between the devil and the deep-sea when it comes to polling day -left, right, or central, every way we end up electing buffoons and goons to rule over us, except for a few smart and sensible leaders worthy of being called a leader.

While making a minimum level of education mandatory for getting elected in any position in the government, be it local, state or central, is far away (since most of the current politicians will be disqualified and they will not allow it), we can at least start building for a better tomorrow. Let students study while they are meant to study. Those who are really interested in building the nation can do so by devoting themselves to their own professions and work - that will build the true Kerala (and India), not protests and marches under the behest of politicians for the gain of the party. And one can always enter mainstream politics after a proper education and proper service/ professional experience.

It is so ironic to think how absurdly we mandate minimum educational qualifications for every position right from a peon to a CEO, but we dont mind uneducated, senseless "leaders" or criminals and thugs to rule over us. We harp on the importance of education, but fail to give it enough priority when it comes to our states and country and the people who represent us, locally, nationally or internationally.

Delinking and banning political organizations from schools and colleges will be the most important step we can take, and will be the biggest turning point for our states and nation. It will promote the entry of sense and logic into governance, and will also transform the political parties and their priorities.

A banner in front of a prestigious institution in Trivandrum

The above picture was one of the most disturbing sights I have seen in Kerala of late. Party flags and political banners are not only seen in colleges, but a common sight even in schools. Prestigious institutions succumbing to the cancer called politics, the same disease that also promotes fundamentalism, casteism and religious divides. Many years ago, when the University College in the capital was the hub of political activity, demonstrations, violence, and clashes were a regular feature at the MG Road in Trivandrum. I remember a particular story about how the demonstrators torched a taxi car along with other state cars. The reason? The bunch of innocent "students" who were on the rampage could only recognize the words "Kerala State" from the "Tourist Taxi - Kerala State Permit" sign on the car.

Kerala has been witness to countless student agitations at the behest of their political masters. Violence and senseless destruction of public and private property worth crores occurs every time, and all that we have done is sympathize with them for their criminal acts. Each time we find some justification and excuse to pardon such acts, while blaming police excesses. It is the same senselessness that allows a banner like that in the picture in front of an old reputed institution, now successfully eroded of its reputation and quality. I wonder why the teachers and the principals of these schools and colleges are not ashamed to see that every morning. What is the message we are trying to send across to our children? Where do we put an end to it?

Ban political parties from educational institutions. Every single person reading this will hopefully vow to do everything possible to delink themselves from campus politics promoted by parties and put an end to it. At least make sure your children go to schools and colleges to study, and not to become dropouts who aspire to be a "leader" among packs of wolves. They can be true leaders after getting sufficient education and experience in conducting themselves first, and then they can dream of building the nation.


Anonymous said...

very interesting article. hope every fool who runs behind ksu, sfi, abvp and all read this.

Vinod/Kakka said...

Kerala did not recommend any educational institute to become a deemed university: The reason was that the government felt that a deemed university could curtail campus politics. How much money and prestige will be lost because of this will become clear in future.
In contrast, in Tamil Nadu, there are quite a few government and private institutes that are deemed universities.

quills said...

Well written! Aye to delinking politics from campuses.

That banner in the pic proclaims it you said it is definitely cancer, in the advanced stages unfortunately. SFI self proclaiming its status in HH Maharaja's College for Women..something they have been doing for a very long time unfortunately, without much opposition. I remember a few years back, during elections, SFI candidates in the college came with their fellow SFI party from neighboring College of Arts and University College and threatened KSU and independent candidates with dire consequences, if they contest. They also made sure that the same message was conveyed to students who planned to vote for people other than those contesting on the SFI banner. This state of affairs was brought to the attention of the principal, who said although she understands she is powerless to do anything about it. And ofcourse, SFI went on to win..uncontested. It is such a desparate state of affairs when student representatives get elected only to promote their party agenda, without a care about any of the real needs of the students they are supposed to represent. Each and everything then that happens in the college become politically charged.

And the worse part is, all these elected student "leaders" are puppets in the hands of their political leads, who call strikes and disrupt education, whenever it catches their fancy.

From the poll, you have going on right now, atleast we see a majority of people opposiing college politics which is very heartening, but I sure hope it translates to real life too. The only problem is the fools who propagate campus politics, won't or cannot read all this, as they must be busy thrashing up students, destroying public property and committing crimes, in the guise of student welfare. :|

MC said...

@ arun - i am sure they must be..

@ vinod - pathetic isnt it? its such shortsighted and narrowminded approach to every thing that ruins the state..its similar to opposing IITs by saying that the standard of teaching will go up, and rest of the colleges wont be able to compete.

@ quills - i think most colleges in kerala will have a similar story to tell..ksu, sfi, abvp..and no wonder we have enough people for hartals and bandhs at the drop of a hat..and its increasingly becoming very clear why most sensible people in kerala escape to other states and countries..and never want to come back..

that said one may ask whats the solution..solution is creating awareness..educated youth realizing and joining together to propogate the good things. each one of us, if we can transform or change one other person, or speak out against what we think is not right at one instance, even thats a beginning..and thats good.

PCM said...

Very true and a 'fantastic' concept. But the first question is "Who should bell the cat?" when rats are worse than the cats. Political parties want followers who will obey the leaders blindly and their first aim is to stifle education. They want to fill the state with uneducated, illiterate , jobless vagabonds who will do anything at their behest. Since education is not a major criterion for becoming a minister, one of these vagabonds will become a minister and control all the government machinery to the advantage of political thugs.
I am afraid there is no hope left.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the most interesting blogs I have read in a while. It's unique in that that everyone agrees with everyone on nearly every issue. That said, I wonder how this blog can actually make a difference because the people who should be reading this probably don't have access to internet or the patience to read a blog on a dial-up. Now I am not suggesting that the frequent readers/writer(s) of this blog are not walking the talk. All I am suggesting is perhaps one should consider novel, alternative ways to reach the target audience. One possibility (and this is assuming what I am about to suggest is legal) is to print the contents of this blog in the form of essays and circulate via the textbook shops that the young minds of Kerala buy their books from. Of course, I can begin to imagine how such approaches may be construed as attempts to overthrow the present government. But this is just to give you an example of what I mean by alternative ways to reach the audience. I don't live in Kerala, so I am not sure what mediums are available to deliver rational thoughts on saving ones own homeland to the people that matter. But I am sure all of us can come up with a plan. It is a crying shame to see a state as beautiful and resourceful as Kerala go to the dogs.
- A concerned malayali

manbearpig said...

If you remove the pessimistic SEP (Somebody Else's Problem) blindfold, you will see that grooming future politicians, leaders and statesmen in colleges and universities is actually extremely healthy for a democracy. Many great (a few infamous, retrospectively) political and social-reform movements throughout the history of modern government have had their initial propulsion from student communities - The Free Speech Movement that led to the Civil Rights Movement in the US, the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, the movement for democracy in Myanmar to name a few; and stretching it a bit the Hitler Youth Movement and the Taliban.
All major political parties in all major democracies in the world today have student and youth wings where future party leaders are groomed.
When we desire our politicians to be well-educated and not, as pcm puts it, "uneducated, illiterate , jobless vagabonds", what better place for a politician to start off than in our colleges and universities?
It is perhaps not a coincidence that the states where there is active student participation in the democratic processes in universities - Delhi, Maharashtra, Kerala, W. Bengal, Punjab, and the north-eastern states - have the most educated mainstream politicians.
I'd rather have a college graduate with a well-rounded perception of social and political issues govern me than the local big-guy who has never been to school but has the most guns and the most goons, or an academic theoretician with no leadership or populist qualities. And the most efficient way in which that can happen is if my future leader is an active student politician today.
There are very few Iqbals in real life. A Tendulkar of politics needs a fertile school environment to grow up from.

abhishek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
abhishek said...


"I'd rather have a college graduate with a well-rounded perception of social and political issues govern me than the local big-guy who has never been to school but has the most guns and the most goons, or an academic theoretician with no leadership or populist qualities."

I'm sorry but where do you see student leaders in our Keralite college who have leadership qualities? Leadership qualities are not merely created during election campaigning and fund-raising. While campaigning and finance are vital to running for office, what about understanding markets and institutions? What about a student's understanding of political reform? What about his grasp of the issues that require change and the measures to tackle?

Yes, I whole-heartedly support having educated politicians but when most activitist students run around organizing "fund-raisers" and political intimidation, does that make them "educated"? If your answer is yes, then your vision of a leader could not be more different than mine.

You would prefer a leader with populist qualities. What if we expect more of our leaders? What if we expect our leaders to be the best of our society and not the mean or average? I assure you the reason we have such mediocre leaders today is because of low expectations and standards of the type you've expressed - I don't want leaders who merely cater to the majority of the people. I want leaders with a vision for the majority of the people, the coherent arguments for executing that vision and the guts to execute that vision.

But I'm glad you raised these arguments because it does highlight a huge missing link in our society - the educated, wordly politician. What we need are institutions that trains our youth to be leaders and teambuilders. Not just medical and engineering colleges that are regularly ruined and become no more than political fiefdoms. In the communist language itself, medical and engineering students in many parts of Kerala suffer today from a lord-vassal relationship through political intimidation. What we need are management schools and interdisciplinary courses in political science, quantitative fields and economics at the undergraduate level. What we can use less of are politicians who spent the majority of their college education bunking classes and running for elections. Getting a job and an education are indicators of leadership abilities, none of which can be claimed by most student activists. Yes, there are a few, selfless stellar candidates, but they were stellar and selfless before they entered Kerala youth politics. In our society, leaders, the few and far in between, are created despite campus politics, not by campus politics.

As you said, you wanted well-rounded leaders. How are our politicians well-rounded when all that most of them have done in their life is run for elections and fund-raising? Have any of them held a real job for more than a year? Have any of them worked in their communities on community projects like teaching children, taking part in public works projects, etc? I challenge you to find one political candidate in Kerala who's done all this.

Anonymous said...

thereare lots of teachers and 'maashes' to add colour to our political scenario,how can you forget their contribution ,

Isn't there a health minister in GOC's present ministry ,whose second name is 'TEACHER'.This person is surely not parsee to have a second name like that.
must have slogged it out in some school before finding the easy way out to become aminister ,that too something like health..

One thing for sure,just like how an ordinary keralite has to struggle to get what his fellow citizens in other states get with minimal effort,our politicians also have to put in lot off effort compared to his/her peers in other states.This applies to both the left or the right.

I Feel its not the lack of leaders with IIM standard leadership qualities or text book knowledge of the sciences that is failing our state,it is the inability to accept failiures and criticisms of the stands taken by top leaders of left and right parties and the feeling that 'we know all what you are talking off even before you were born" attitude of our people.

abhishek said...


The key comments are "must have slogged" and "has to struggle to get what his fellow citizens".

Simply having "teacher" as your last name doesn't make you a wise leader. If that were true, then my friends, courtesy of Silverine, Girly Vadakumpadam and Lily Madapally must be good at rice farming and running a church respectively. On a more serious note, I had equally mediocre and good teachers when I studied in Kerala. Teaching experience does not substitute for leadership.

And about the ordinary Keralite struggling comment, I don't believe one bit that by virtue of living in Kerala, you work harder. If anything you are treated by a greater array of public health care and public education opportunities. So, life can't be worse off than in other states that provide little in comparison to their residents. If you want to talk about struggling, you ought to discuss that with the millions of Kerala migrants working hard in other communities to feed their families and unemployed youths back home.

Anonymous said...

While I broadly agree with the author's views, it should be pointed out that students organisations brought occasional benefits. When not overly influenced by their political masters, they have taken moralistic stands (Eg. recent demo against ragging). They could prevent tyranny of some teachers, intervene for certain rights of students and occasionally lead constructive activities. The problem comes when senior politicians try to use students for their ends.


MC said...

For all those who support politically backed student wings in campus, I hope the death of the policeman yesterday (beaten to death by "students" when he was trying to stop an SFI-ABVP clash) will come as a wake-up call. Or does this also belong to the benefits of campus politics?

I wish instead of that policeman dying, the police had opened fire and killed about 10-15 of these goons. Then Keralites would have woken up. Who cares about a policeman dying.. Only when these "innocent" students die the people of Kerala will wake up.

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