Do we really care about it?

Let us check the budget of this financial year.

In the Union Budget for 2020-21, only Rs 99300 crore has been allocated to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) for education. Shockingly, this has been pretended as an increased budget. But in reality, this budget expenditure for education has come down to 2.67% from 2.8% of the last year while it was 4.7% in the year 2013-14 i.e. before the BJP-led NDA government ascended to the power in the centre. Even a close observation will divulge that the union budget of this year includes Rs 42150 crore as support from ‘Madhyamik and Uchhatar Shiksha Kosh’ and ‘Prarambhik Shiksha Kosh’ which is being levied on all central taxes as education cess and the central government will provide only Rs 57150 crore from Gross Budgetary Support. However, as a result of reduced budgetary allocation, we are witnessing a drastic funds-cut in different levels of education.

Teachers must be well paid and well trained to cope up with the new challenges created by complex life pattern. Few days back Dr Asgar Samoon, principal secretary education, tweets that we need to focus on quality education and innovative ways to reach students but take a look at the budgetary allocations. National Mission on Teachers and Teaching has seen a drastic reduction in budgetary allocation from Rs 130 crore of the last year to only Rs 50 crore in this year. Similarly, funds for teachers training and adult education has further reduced to Rs 110 crore from Rs 125 crore in the last year while it was Rs 422 crore in 2018-19. Naturally, this will tell upon the training and appointment of teaching staff in the educational institutions.

Budgetary allocation to the central universities has reduced from Rs 8287 crore of last year to Rs 7643 crore which will hamper the development of central universities particularly newly established central universities.

The research and innovation head has faced a 50-per cent cut compared to the last year budget i.e., from Rs 608.87 crore to Rs 307.40 crore. This will eventually spell disaster to the research ecosystem.

Amazingly, while no fund has been allocated for much-trumpeted Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, funds for Rashtriya Uchhatar Shiksha Abhiyan have reduced to Rs 300 crore from Rs 2100 crore of the last year. As a result of which many projects started under these schemes will tend to collapse due to the unavailability of the funds.

In this fiscal, the Budget allocation for the University Grants Commission (UGC) is earmarked to Rs 4693 crore which is only Rs 93 crore more than that of last year budget. But it is notable that the same budget for UGC was Rs 9315 crore in 2015-16. Simply anyone can imagine that how it has been affecting the grants to the institutions and de-subsidising the higher education.

Moreover, encouragement to external borrowings and foreign direct investment in education will further privatise and commercialise the education sector. Now let us see to the situation of our state particularly the situation of Kashmir valley. Kashmir valley is the conflict ridden society. And the worst affected area is education. Here I will not talk about budgetary allocation for education.

The impact of conflict on education is often overlooked. Education in such times can be an emancipatory tool for achieving post conflict peace and providing stability and normalcy to the region. It is also a great tool of instilling hope and positivity as well as offering opportunity to the students and youth who are surrounded and victimized by violence. One of the major challenges of education in situations of conflict is to create democratic means of protest based on morals and values against all kinds of injustice.

Let us not talk about the basic infrastructure, enough and permanent and well paid teaching and non teaching staff etc. We all know the reality. The recent decision to reduce the weight of school bags can be welcomed. But let us hope for the restoration of 4G so that students can get the benefit of online education in this covid pandemic situation.

The all out encouragement to technical aspects of education and science will kill the basic subjects of humanities and basic science. The cry of entire world is quality education. The Students’ Movement of U.K. (2010), Movement in Canada, Chilly and other Latin American countries, Australia, U.S., France in 2011, Pakistan in 2018-19, Bangladesh in 2019 is the proof that people need education, and not the arms.

So if we will not allot enough fund for education, how our society will get quality education? Quality Education doesn’t mean vocational, technical and professional education. Quality Education means secular, scientific and democratic education to all which was dreamt by the freedom fighters of this country too. Quality Education means which can free society from all vices like unscientific beliefs, communal division, etc. Quality Education means which can bring us together as human society and lead us to the much higher and better human civilization.

Sheikh Maqbool is chairman Save Education Movement and chief spokesperson J&K RTI Foundation.