Education: Sounds in the Assembly

He said clearly that he can’t sell dreams and promise sky to the students but can guide them to light at the end of the tunnel
File Photo
File Photo

I have been invariably writing in this paper through my columns that for a better society better education is a must; and this is possible only when there is a better system of schools and colleges. In order to have a talented and a younger generation inculcated with a competitive standard, we need to put in every effort to make our system modernized and advanced, which encapsulates all the relevant levels. Our developmental initiatives should go hand in hand – we cannot afford to ignore any such angle of our progress- if we are ensuring that the infrastructural development is important, the educational sector is to be kept on top priority.          

This is what Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari, Minister for Education has ultimately perceived during his eleven months of experience, and the same concerns he expressed while making his maiden speech in the State Legislative Assembly on 23rd of January 2018, the day when the Grants of Education Department were passed. While speaking Syed Altaf Bukhari expressed that there is dire need for promoting key initiatives to improve the State's education system. He said clearly that he can't sell dreams and promise sky to the students but can guide them to light at the end of the tunnel. He, in a passionate appeal sought support of all walks of life to shape the future of younger generation in the state. 

He said in the Legislative Assembly that we have to nurture children, give them education and skill as per the demands of a market-driven society which is becoming competitive with each passing day. Therefore, engaging in any constructive dialogue on improving the contours of the education sector shall require that we all rise above our political affiliations and considerations. The Minister didn't paint a rosy picture of his Department and expressed that he has not succeeded yet in making any discernible change on the ground as he is still trying to come to terms with what ails the education sector, which is directly linked to the most important investment one can think of, i.e., the investment in future of our children who are 'Nation Builders of Tomorrow'. Investment in education is undoubtedly the most significant investment any Government can hope to make.  He expressed that when we put up schools and colleges, we are in fact laying edifice of a safer and more prosperous environment for ourselves and the society.

Syed Altaf Bukhari presented a realistic picture of the Education Department when he openly confessed that the Education Department is the biggest in the State having manpower of nearly 1.50 lakh employees. Besides, additional manpower of 50,000 is directly associated with the education sector. There are 23,773 State-run Schools and 96 Government Degree Colleges spread along the length and breadth of the State.  Out of 23,773 schools, as many as 17,901 are without electricity, 17,167 without boundary walls and 17,112 without playgrounds. And if this is not enough, 26000 toilets units and lavatories in our Schools are in a dilapidated condition. Nearly 1000 girls Schools are without any toilet facilities. Besides, the sector is also trailing in most of the indicators of development set by MHRD especially with reference to learning outcomes, female literacy, drop-out and retention rate, enrolment of out-of-school children, children with special needs, etc. These are agonizing figures and need much attention and practical solution.  

 In the presence of the huge infrastructural gap, any false promise of revamping the educational sector shall remain an absurd pretence and nothing more than a travesty. After carrying out detailed assessment of existing infrastructure gap, the School Education Department requires additional funding to the tune of Rs. 2500 crores towards renovation of existing infrastructure facilities. Similarly, in the Higher Education sector, which is a relatively new Department, there is an urgent requirement of around Rs. 1300 crore, to bridge over infrastructure gap, the Minister said in the Assembly.

 A perspective plan has been drawn for the next three years to bring out a visible change on the ground in terms of augmenting infrastructure development in the education sector. In order to implement this perspective plan, a first tranche of Rs. 400 crore in School Education Department and Rs. 200 crore in Higher Education Department is immediately required to set the ball rolling. However, under Rashtriya Ucchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), the Central flagship scheme, effort is on to address key areas to make the institutions of higher learning centres of excellence. The Minister spoke that onus in making the institutions of learning vibrant and functional is not upon the Education Department alone but also on the Hon'ble Legislators present in the House who represent the people and the stakeholders of the State. 

He also said the J&K State Board of School Education has played a pivotal role by maintaining quality of textbooks and working of its Curriculum Development and Research Wing, besides zero tolerance towards resorting to unfair means during Board examinations. The Department has decided to have zero tolerance policy towards resorting to unfair means. He confessed that maximum number of positions have been grabbed by the students of Government schools which indicates that the students and teachers together have put in their best efforts. 

He made it clear that if our schools remain unfenced and insecure in absence of permanent watch-and-ward, they will continue to remain extremely vulnerable to damages.  In order to take bull by the horns, the Department is seriously considering a proposal for salary cut for those who prefer to go on deployment or attachment, especially in cities, towns and urban areas of the State. And better incentives for those who are posted in rural and far- flung areas.

Syed Altaf Bukhari spoke from his heart and said that "money from the Government and motivation from teachers and students is needed to improve the system of education and this shall yield tangible results in due course of time".  The Minister deserves appreciation for speaking the truth and we all need to support him.              

Together, we shall and will make a difference and realize the dreams of our young bright minds.   

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