People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIV

No. 09

February 28, 2010

 

SFI Organises All India Convention on Education

 

Roshan and Nachiket

 

THE SFI central executive committee successfully organised an all India convention on education in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi on February 21-22. In the run up to this, a rally was held in Delhi University which was followed by a public meeting at Vivekananda statue, Arts Faculty. The rally started from Vishwavidyalaya metro station at 11am with SFI delegates from all over the country participating in it and culminated in a public meeting addressed by former all India general secretary of SFI and former MP, Nilotpal Basu, all India general secretary of SFI, Ritabrata Bannerjee, all India joint secretary Shivadasan and Delhi state president, Roshan. G Selva, all India joint secretary presided over the meeting.

The rally echoed the resolve of the SFI and the larger student community to resist the commercialisation and centralisation of education and reaffirmed the legacy of the ‘study and struggle’. This resolve was resoundingly reflected in the public meeting as the speakers addressing the meeting asserted the basic right of the students to education and also the democratic rights of the students, while highlighting the anti-people anti-student nature of the policies pursued by the congress led UPA government.  

Nilotpal Basu began his inspiring and insightful address by reminding the comrades of the great anti-imperialist legacy of the student movement in India as the conscious and awakened student community having accessed the modern education and hence the modern ideals performed a crucial role in the anti-imperialist freedom struggle against the British colonisers.  Focusing on the worsening status of India in terms of human development and grossly inadequate expenditure on education inspite of the universalisation of education being included in the directive principles of the constitution, he urged the students to rise in unison to address these issues and struggle for the achievement of the unfulfilled [i]promises in the education sector so as to change the present set up which is marked by highly inegalitarian tendencies.

Ritabrata Banerjee drew the attention of the comrades to the spate of organised assaults on the student community from the government and affirmed the resolve of the SFI to resist these assaults steadfastly. Asserting that ‘when politics determines education, we have to determine politics’ he asserted the necessity of the struggle to maintain and regain the democratic rights of the student community which have come under the axe of neo liberal regime which has set out to depoliticise the student community. Saluting the undying legacy of the martyrs who have sacrificed their lives for SFI, he appealed the comrades to uphold SFI’s legacy of ‘Study, Struggle and Sacrifice’.

The convention was inaugurated by Professor Prabhat Patnaik the next day.

Professor Patnaik in his insightful and comprehensive speech delineated the larger politics of government initiated reforms in education, placing it in the larger context of the politics of neo-liberalism and underscored the necessity to maintain the intellectual self-reliance as an important step towards countering the neo-liberalism and imperialism.

At the very outset, he emphasised the necessity of the democratic space to be available in the education system as it is a prerequisite for fostering alternative views to strengthen the democracy itself.

 Furthermore he called for the existence of a culture of activism which contributes to the aforementioned process. Emphasising the necessity of maintaining the specificity of the nature of education system, Professor Patnaik stated that our educational system cannot be a clone of the education system in America. The reforms initiated and proposed by the government are effectively meant to destroy this specificity and to shrink the democratic space.

Commenting on the proposals for establishing new central universities as the ‘world class centres of excellence’ Professor Patnaik questioned the very notion of being world class as it amounts to losing the specificity of our institution which ultimately leads to the complete ignorance of the social goal of the education. Professor Patnaik also criticised the proposal to constitute National Council for Higher Education and Research for its anti-democratic centralising tendencies. Elaborating on this, Professor Patnaik said that the centralising tendencies are visible not only in terms of complete exclusion of the states from the entire process but more so in terms of the centralisation of decision making in the hands of few handpicked individuals ,and furthermore there is no direct political accountability.

Professor Patnaik also drew the attention of the audience to the threat that the standardising thrust of accreditation measures poses to the dissenting and heterodox voices in the academia as it entails a kind of ‘intellectual subservience to the logic of the market as the academics and intellectuals are supposed to fall in line with the dominant ideology. Stating that these reforms are targeted at keeping the student activism and social sensitivity out of education system, Professor Patnaik highlighted the individualising thrust of these policies.

Professor Patnaik further analysed these reforms in the context of the consolidation of bourgeois order under neo-liberal regime and hegemony of international finance capital. Elaborating the devastating impact of neo-liberal economic reforms on the living conditions of peasant-petty producers and working classes of this country,  Professor Patnaik said that it becomes essential for the prevalent regime to prevent the struggle from emerging against its injustices and hence making the education subservient to its agenda becomes one of the important planks of its policies. He called for the analysis of new reforms being pursued by the government in the education sector as the ‘bourgeoisification of education’ whereby education system churns out the products keeping in with the requirements of the existing regime.

In this light, Professor Patnaik called for the necessity to fight the ‘new emerging education order’ as it is a part of new emerging bourgeois order which is counter-revolutionary in character as it entails the rolling back the democracy in its fullest sense. However Professor Patnaik said that this fight could not remain confined to the realm of education and it has to become a part of the larger struggle for systemic transformation of the existing bourgeois order. Coming down heavily on the Maoists Professor Patnaik categorically stated that the anarchist and puerile activities of Maoists undertaken in the name of revolution effectively undermines the possibility of revolution. While criticising the empty rhetoric of Maoists nevertheless Professor Patnaik stated that we cannot close our eyes to the necessity of revolution and the struggle should begin from the education itself. In conclusion, Professor Patnaik exposed the vacuous logic behind the repeated calls for keeping development above politics and as a logical corollary to it, keeping education above politics. He also explained how these notions entail systemic devaluation of political processes and depoliticisation which forecloses the democratic space and encroaches upon the democratic rights. In the end, Professor Patnaik gave the call to the student community to study and struggle and ‘study to struggle’.

 

After this, the SFI approach papers were placed in the convention. There were three papers which were presented on university and college education, professional education and school education. RItabrata Banerjee, Shivadasan and Selva presented these papers. P K Biju, the SFI all India president presided over this session.

After this the convention broke into three commissions on college/university education, professional education and school education.  Vijender Sharma, Albeena Shakil presented papers in the college and university education session. Thomas Joseph and Prabir Purakayastha had their presentations in the professional education session while Smita Gupta presented her paper in the school education session.  Detailed discussion were held in all the sessions which were chaired by Sayandeep Mitra, Koya Chandramohan and  Mahender Singh Rana( College and University Session), Kadigalla Bhaskar, KS Kanakraj( Professional Education), Gautam Damor, K V Sumesh and Nilanjana Roy( School Education).

99 comrades took part in the discussions which were held in these sessions. After this there was group discussion among delegations from different sates and then a member from each state spoke on its suggestions to the charter of demands. Finally the CEC adopted a charter of demands which would be popularised across all the units in the days to come. The main thrust of the charter is to fight against centralisation and commercialisation of education and mount pressure on the government to increase its spending on education. The need to fight against centralisation moves like NCHER was stressed specially.

In the concluding session, Sitaram Yechury addressed the convention. Congratulating the delegates, he said that SFI was the first organisation which started the tradition of intervening in education policy matters for building up a better and equal society and not just fighting for the local demands of the students. He appealed to the delegates to use the charter which had been adopted as a weapon in their hands and carry forward the struggle across the length and breadth of the country.

Yechury also addressed an open meeting of students in JNU after the convention. He first inaugurated the Hindi organ of the SFI Chahtra Sangharsh. Ritabrata Banerjee and Shivadasan, SFI all India joint secretary and editor of Chahtra Sangharsh were also present there. Yechury also took the first subscription of Chahtra Sangharsh.

 Stating that the requirements of the ruling classes determine the nature of the education system, he said that this very factor undermines the possibility of the fullest realisation of the intellectual potential in the country. He added that the realisation of this underutilised potential is a precondition for the creation of new and better India.  To achieve this, ‘a balance has to be maintained in the concerns of quantity quality and equity in the education, and hence underlined the necessity of the state intervention in the education in terms of affirmative action for education to be accessible and available to the deprived sections of the society.  Criticising the neo-liberal paradigm of development being pursued by the government,Yechury drew the attention of the students to the huge gap existing between the ‘Shining India’ and ‘Suffering India’. He said that the inequalities persisting in the system are also reflected in the sector of education and to remove these inequalities it is necessary to fight for changing the policy orientations of the government. Saying that it is only the left forces which look at these questions in totality, he added further that the choice of path being pursued by the government is determined essentially by the correlation of class-forces existing in the country, and hence there is an urgent necessity on part of student organisation like SFI to comprehend these issues and plan concrete action over it to carry forward the struggle. Yechury also drew the attention of the  students to the concerted and vicious attacks being waged against the left-forces by the ‘grand alliance of opportunist forces along with certain ‘misplaced well meaning intellectuals’ who are justifying the anarchist violence perpetrated against the left in the name of revolution. In conclusion, Yechury said that the struggle for the education is the struggle for making a better India possible and the SFI has to face the difficult tasks in the path of this struggle and carry forward this struggle to a successful conclusion.

 Ritabrata Bannerjee pointed out that the convention has decided to wage the militant struggle against the commercialisation and centralisation of education and underscored the necessity to fight this struggle at the ground level. He reaffirmed the resolve of the SFI to oppose the introduction of the foreign education service providers bill tooth  and nail. He also asserted that the students union elections have to be held in all the universities in the country  upholding the democratic rights of the student community. Focussing on the vicious attacks against the left forces and SFI by the opportunist and anarchist forces  he asserted that the left forces can not be defeated by anarchist violence as ‘ideas cannot be killed’, and the undying legacy of the martyrs has to  be taken forward. He mentioned about the sacrifices of SFI comrades A B Bijesh, Abhijit Mahato and Tilak Tudu who had been brutally killed by the fundamentalist and reactionary forces after the Lok Sabha polls. He pointed out that in these days it is imperative to uphold the legacy of SFI of study, struggle and sacrifice and strengthen the fight for a better alternative.

The public rally followed the two day long convention which was attended by the 241 delegates and 124 comrades participated in the extensive discussion. As an outcome of these extensive discussion a demand charter was formulated on the basis of which the struggle against the commercialisation and centralisation has to be strengthened. The delagates coming from all over the country stayed on the JNU campus for two days and shared the rooms with the students.