Whether we agree or disagree with Naeem Akhtar's approach – many may feel genuinely aggrieved – however, give credit where credit is due. In a conflict-ridden society like ours wherein many vested interests converge to defeat any idea of change, maintaining status quo is always a safe bet. Regrettably teachers here too have developed an entrenched vested interest.
Obviously, a hardened vested interest by-design will aim to render any effort to seek a change, as controversial. For that matter Naeem Akhtar has stirred a hornets' nest.
Let's safely assume that the education minister, one amongst the very few proactive minsters, sincerely desires a change. For many questions to arise, however, is inevitable. We seem to have lost the hope of a change, perhaps the teacher is to be blamed.
Does the real problem pertain to the absence of a requisite capacity, as most of the commentators here tend to believe? If it's so, a mere administrative reform or approach must stem the rot. That may begin with a fair recruitment policy to attract the best available talent.
And at the same moment purging the system from deadwood, as apparently proposed, should cleanse education system from all the ills. In that case, the so-called process of "screening" that seems to have triggered the present stir, should be acknowledged as a step in a right direction. One wishes that tso simple a diagnosis of a much deep-rooted malice was really possible. That surely is not to be the case. If wishes were horses, beggars could ride.
Moreover some have agitated the bad or even absence of infrastructure for the poor quality of education in the government run schools. As if private schools here are paragon of quality education. Undoubtedly government run educational institutions, most of these with rare exceptions here or there, harbour and promote inefficiency, only.
Conversely the so-called private schools are abode of wholesome commercialisation. Leave aside the simple private schools where the real intention is to make money; the so-called missionary schools in the valley too are abusing education system by resorting to worst kind of commercialisation. At the best, these private institutions are only churning out at a very large-scale, a crop of career oriented only. There is little or no concern for awakening of minds by imparting real education. Do these commercial outlets still justify to be labelled as schools? Comparison, of an utterly inefficient government school and fully commercially driven private school, truly stands reduced to a choice between a deep Sea and a Devil.
Having said so, the absence of good infrastructures ultimately bears resemblance to an oft repeated axiom, Na nau mann tel hoga na radha nachegi. In the good old days, when there were no computers, a well stuffed laboratory was even a dream. Talking of desks, the jute mats were hardly available, yet the education system could produce legendary teachers. Didn't those poorly paid teachers earn the respect, moreover, admiration of the society through sheer diligence and dedication? Some of them were not properly qualified if their comparison is to be drawn with the highly qualified so-called PhDs of the present. Why that commitment is missing today?
Can any other educational institution in state flaunt more beautiful and well laid out campus than of Kashmir University. That soul lifting physical environment is capable of inspiring even a dead soul to sing. Why Kashmir University is bereft of any original ideas. Why this touted premier institution of learning has so far failed to stimulate any intellectual creativity. Had serenity alone been the benchmark of yielding intellectuals, the green meadows should have been fully brimming with Einsteins and Kahlil Gibrans.
Let's come to the point. It's not the mere administrative oversight that needs to be further streamlined. If the mind continues to fail, could the layer after layer of administrative labyrinth deliver? It's not the simple issue of capacity that haunts our educational system. Whether a person tasked to educate is educated sufficiently, is not the real problem. Is our teacher motivated enough to teach, should be the fundamental area of query. Yes, of course that equals to put a disturbing question mark on the integrity, and not necessarily on the ability, of a teacher. In an immensely distressing situation wherein the notion of integrity itself has been rendered as suspect, is it not injustice to hold only a teacher dishonest. Is a doctor true to his/her profession, for that matter who is? Is it possible to site a shining example, amongst politicians, bureaucrats, or a simple trader? Since everyone else has failed to deliver, singling-out a teacher will be highly unfair. The teacher alone is not the problem; we are severely challenged by the breakdown of the society.
Either we lose hope and stand consigned to the dustbin of history. Or else we refuse the perpetuating state of hopelessness and hence decide to rise again as a people as well as nation. If a teacher is cause of hopelessness, he/she alone as a nation builder can again invoke hope. A difference between hope and hopelessness could be made by a teacher alone. In case we are really desirous of a change, the teacher ought to be empowered, hence liberated to emerge as a harbinger of that change. So let's stop the blame game and begin a serious dialogue within. Indeed the beginning ought to be made with a teacher, yet the entire society has to undergo a process of reform.