TNT | LETTERS | March 23, 2019:
This is an ‘Open Letter’ to the Meghalaya Education Minister, Lahkmen Rymbui on the admission fees of students from a concerned citizens of the state, Mayborn Lyngdoh R.
Mr. Lahkmen Rymbui
Education Minister, Government of Meghalaya.
Subject – The admission fees of students should not be made a business.
I am writing this letter to you knowing very well that this would not sit well with most of the administrators of the prominent schools and colleges in Shillong and I’m probably dooming my career opportunities which makes this letter all the more worthy for you to take it seriously.
With reference to the subject cited above, I would like to draw your attention to the statement that you made last year, the 2nd May 2018 “Educational institutions should not profit from admission fees” that only ended up as a statement.
2019 is a brand new year. The SSLC and HSSLC board examinations have just concluded and in probably fifty days from now, we will be welcoming the results. Some will pass and some will fail. Based on the results, some will be wearing bright smiles, while some will hung their heads in dejection. That is part and parcel of life, we win some and lose some. But heart-breaking are the battles where even in victory we are defeated. I would like to draw extracts from the article Education in Meghalaya is a growing business – Part 1 published by The Northeast Today (dated – May 24, 2018) where the writer discussed at large the unethical mal-practices of the various prominent and not so very prominent schools and colleges in Shillong.
Admission Forms –
Forms and prospectuses are stacked and ready for production. The forms come at Rs. 100, Rs. 200, Rs. 300, Rs. 500, Rs. 700, and so on. These forms are pre-sold way before time to maximise profit. Students and parents blindly purchase these forms without being actually certain of the result awaiting. Most of these forms are wasted because the students do not attain the required percentage. The forms though left unfilled, can never be reimbursed. Of course, it’s not the institution’s fault. “One should know of one’s potential”. Well, what about the authenticity of the accuracy of the teacher’s capacity? Let’s not be too blind. Not so long ago on paying Rs. 400 per paper for “Re-evaluation”, degree students were awarded extra marks, some even garnered as high as 15 marks, while the ones who are hesitant in paying because they are so well-to-do, and 400 was a big amount, had to settle for the original marks allotted. Some couldn’t make it to the 45% mark because of the denied extra 10-15 marks, and their educational journey was short-lived. This has left a black-hole in the education system – how do we separate the deserving students from the not so deserving students?
Not everyone can afford private universities, or afford to apply outside the State. This is nothing but the perfect exploitation of a sea of students by a handful of bourgeoisie. This practice ought to be addressed, lest the unlucky deserving students might fall prey to this trap and have their dreams cut short by greed.
The fees structure is one which is very lucrative. The fees-structure starts with Rs. 20,000 in most schools and colleges for the XI standard and Rs. 25,000 or more for the Bachelor’s irrespective of the stream.
“As I was looking at the fees structure of my sister, a question dawned on me for a split of a second, “That’s a lot. Can we afford this?” We are a middle-class family, both of my parents are government servants, “Yes we can!” I then realised … that is a question that is being asked by so many families. Sadly, not everyone can say, “Yes we can!”
Last year, when I was in a cab, I over-heard two men talking about the SSLC. Apparently, their children had just cleared the exam, securing the first division. The two men congratulated each other and spoke at large on the hike in fees in the recent years. One of them said, “We have come to an age where instead of having tears of joy that our children have done well in the exams, we have tears of sorrow knowing we will not be able to afford for their higher education”. It was heart-breaking.
I can only wonder how many untold stories are out there with silent tears that die every single year only to be heard by silent broken dreams and aspirations of parents who cannot afford, and the young students whose gleaming eyes were forcefully shut by diabolic claws of this great business called “EDUCATION”.
This takes me to the next and most important point to be discussed –
Per-capita income –
According to the Economic Times and Times of India dated May 31, 2017 the per-capita income of an average Indian is Rs 1,03219 per annum, which means that an average Indian earns Rs 8601 per month.
Meghalaya on the other hand has a per-capita Income of Rs 79,332 (“STATE WISE DATA” (PDF). rbi.org.in. Reserve Bank of India, New Delhi. Retrieved 17 February 2017) which means that the per capita monthly income of an average citizen of Meghalaya is Rs. 6611.
If we are to think logically, even if the fees structure was Rs. 15000 per annum, then a family having two children who’ve just passed SSLC or HSSLC will have to live with Rs. 1,10000 for a year with all the other expenses that comes along (House rent, food, clothes, washing-powder, soaps, toothpaste, toothbrushes, taxi-fare, bus-fare, tiffins, drinking water, uniforms, books, stationeries, shoes, slippers, socks, gas, electricity bills) that are some of the basic necessities of life.
Another is that, not all of us are blessed to have both parents, what if the parent is a single mother or a single father?
Should that family cease to exist altogether?
Shillong, the mesmerising beauty tagged with the name “Scotland of the East” and “Rock Capital of India” though is the capital of Meghalaya, you’ll find a myriad families living Below Poverty Line (BPL). A good number of them are in Nongmensong alone, and how great could the number be on the outskirts.
There have been many efforts which has been taken to increase the literacy rate of Meghalaya by the various ministers who were short-sighted.
A classic example is when the then Education Minister of Meghalaya decided to change the education system by advising the MBOSE to make it a best of five which means students are allowed to fail in Mathematics or Science and Technology and still pass. This was in the year 2011.
This was hailed as a masterstroke as the passing percentage did improve but sadly the outcome was something that was not expected by the then Educational Minister. The quality of education was on a downward sloping curve, while the increase in fees structure started to peak.
Most students failing in Mathematics and Science are the ones coming from the urban areas. Students in the urban areas well-grounded in language, are less hard-working because they come from well-to-do families (Note: be reasonable enough to understand it’s not aimed at everyone).
However, students from the rustic areas normally fail in English or Alternative English because of the poor quality of education. (And if you fail in English/Alternative English/MIL you fail). Clearly the education system is lob-sided, and the concentration of the pass percentage is on the urban students (the ones who are grounded in language) and rich urban students (those who can afford any fees given as long as they are admitted). The rustic students (the ones with no foundation), and those coming from the lower sections of society (those who cannot afford) are utterly disregarded.
The passing of these undeserving students has apparently led to an influx in demand for education in institutions. This influx basically comes from the passing of those undeserving students who can afford any fees structure put in front of them.
It would not be wrong to say that education is slowly but steadily becoming a bourgeois enterprise. In the next generation, Meghalaya will be divided into two sections ‘Haves’ and ‘Have nots’. One will be the reigning generation of masters that will filtrate from generation to generation, and the other, a generation of bonded servants to serve. You can argue and try to be as delusional as you can, “Knowledge is power” but as far as India is concern, formal education is the parameter”.
Public schools enjoyed by the bourgeoisie –
It is sad to say but the best Public School in Meghalaya which was initially installed to cater to the lower sections of society had ironically evolved into a bourgeoisie enterprise. It has become a habit for this school to not only interview the students taking the admission but also the parents on the kind of jobs that they are engaged in so that the school would have a pretty good picture of whether this family can afford the pay-checks that will be coming along their way.
This strategy is shameful, condescending and a calculative, discriminative bourgeoisie mind-set at the expense of the middle-class proletariat.
Solution for an immediate remedy –
The tablets were distributed “as part of the State Government’s Digital Learning Aid for Students scheme which is set to cover about 25,000 students” in order to help the students with their learning and education. Honestly, the tablets are time consuming and the information installed inside is not up to the mark. I am a teacher, I would know. On the other hand, they are time consuming.
The budget for these tablets is set at an approximate of Rs. 5000 per tablet. Then, 25000 tablets would cost 125,000,000. That’s a lot of money that is being wasted. I used the phrase “being wasted” because on the one hand, most of these tablets are defected, while on the other, the number of students benefitting from it is literally ‘a handful’.
The money can instead be used to reimburse the school fees and admission fees of the students. Rs. 5000 is a lot of money. What good is a tablet to a family without electricity? What good is a tablet to a student that have to drop-out because he/she isstruggling to pay tuition (school) fees? What good is a tablet that fails to work? What good is a tablet that deviates the student from studies instead of helping them? Most of these tablets are used for gaming, movies (most of the time pornographic movies) and for music.
In conclusion, Mr. Rymbui, we no longer want abstract connotations and great speeches in the Assembly from you that looks good only on the ‘Newspaper’. I hope the “Regulatory Board” that you have spoken of a year ago will be formed immediately and be the impetus for a brighter Meghalaya, and that it will not be erected for the namesake just to create public offices for unworthy relatives or friends. We need practical implementations of such proposals. There are too many students who drop-out because education is becoming too expensive. It’s time we realise the ground reality! Most of these schools and colleges that I intend to address to are Government schools, Government-aided or semi Government-aided schools and colleges. Therefore, the question of encountering an economic problem with regards to the salary of the teachers is zero to none.
Keeping in mind the pre-admission economical approach of the various schools and colleges, I hope this letter reach you at the earliest, so that thy grace can have ample time to act before it’s just another bourgeoisie year in the making.
I hope the dignified chair that you sit upon as the Education Minister will not fail to act based on the interests of the common-man and the ones who truly deserve, and shy away from pleasing a handful of the bourgeoisie.
Lastly like to humbly request you to please not let the Lok Sabha elections be an obstacle. There is literally no connection, let’s not seek the mentioned illusionised obstacle as an excuse as most ministers would. We do not have that much time. Too many dreams are dimmed forcefully by educational tyrants. It’s time we act right.
Mayborn Lyngdoh R.