People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXV

No. 31

July 31, 2011

 

KERALA

 

Students Fight & Suffer for Equitable Education System

                                                                                                                                V Sivadasan

 

THE brutalities of paramilitary forces of the Kerala, led by criminal minded officials under the directions of the UDF government, recently flooded the roads and gutters in the state with the blood of a number of students. At present, activists of the student and youth movements in Kerala are facing brutal attacks of the police. The question is: Why is the government of the United Democratic Front adopting such an anti-student course? The answer no doubt is that it is basically a consequence of their extreme subservience to the neo-liberal political agenda.  

 

UNREALISED

ASSURANCE

At the time of legislative assembly elections in 2001, A K Antony, then the leader of United Democratic Front, decided to allow private parties to start self-financing colleges, and assured the people of Kerala that two such self-financing institutions would be equal to one government institution in performance. But the people of Kerala found to their dismay that this assurance never materialised. Due to a powerful and militant agitation conducted by the students, the government then assured to implement some measures so as to ensure them social justice. When the Left Democratic Front (LDF) came to power after defeating the United Democratic Frontís regime, it passed a new legislation to regulate the self-financing institutions. But, unfortunately, the managements of these institutions obtained from the court a verdict against this bill.

 

Recently, soon after the UDF led government came to power in Kerala, it began to bare its brutal face. Its police brutally lathicharged all over Kerala the protest marches led by the Students Federation of India (SFI) against the educational and other policies of the UDF government.

 

The SFI has submitted a memorandum to the government of Kerala regarding various issues in the education sector and made the following demands from the government.

1) It must authorise the PSC to appoint teachers in government and government aided educational institutions.

2) It must ensure merit and social justice in the admission process in self-financing institutions. The fee structure for at least 50 per cent of the seats in these institutions must be at par with that in the government colleges.

3) It must scrap the no objection certificates (NOCs) given to the new CBSC and ICSE schools.

4) It must ensure transparency in the appointment of teachers in the self-financing colleges, making sure that the UGCís and AICTEís guidelines are being followed.

5) It must start special schools for Endosulphan affected children.

6) It must increase the amount of stipend for nursing students.

7) It must increase the amount of university research fellowship and ensure its time bound distribution.

8) It must appoint teachers for physical education training at the higher secondary level.

9) It must start new courses in government and government aided colleges.

10) It must start new courses in polytechnics, VHSCs and industrial training institutes (ITIs).

11) It must bring the education of children of 3 to 6 and 14-18 years of age, too, under the purview of the Right to Education Act. 

12) It must immediately release the merit list of 50 per cent government quota for PG seats in the self-financing government colleges.

13) It must ensure and honour the democratic rights of students.

14) It must increase the stipends for the SC and ST groups and ensure their effective distribution.

15) It must take action against the unrecognised schools and fake recruitment agencies. 

 

BIG THREATS

TO EDUCATION

The SFIís agitation has been focussed mainly against the decision taken by the Kerala government to give a free hand to the managements of self-financing institutions in regard to fee fixation and about bypassing merit in order to admit those students who can pay their exorbitant fees, including the capitation fee. But the students community of Kerala has a history of heroic fights against commercialisation of education. Well before the agitation started, all the pertinent issues were brought to the attention of the state government through various memoranda and demonstrations. But the response from the government side has totally negative. Cuttings across the political lines, a large proportion of students rallied behind the SFI to protest against this negative attitude of the UDF government. Meanwhile, to the surprise of one and all, the government took the decision to issue NOCs to all the applicants for starting CBSE schools. This added fuel to the already burning fire.

 

The studentsí agitation has received wider support from all sections of the society. But, instead of taking measures to control the managements, the government made all-out efforts to defeat and crush the struggle by using police force against the activists. Even girls students were not spared. Many of them are in hospitals now, with multiple injuries. Justifying its earlier track record of commercialising education from the primary to the higher levels, the UDF chief minister reached a secret understanding with the private managements immediately after he took the oath of office and secrecy. In fact, it was the UDF governmentís return gift for the support it had received from the religious groups during the elections. As such, now the government is bound to frame policies that are in favour of these vested interests. It is for this reason that the government is trying to dismantle the education system in Kerala which has been a model for the rest of the country.

 

The fact of converting the merit seats into the management quota seats for admitting the children of the education minister and the health minister has also come to light in the meantime.

 

As it is, the capitation fee for the medical and post-graduation seats has been estimated to be running in crores. It was in one of these institutions that the son of the education minister was admitted.

 

In Kerala, as the seats in these self-financing institutions are filled up merely on the basis of whether the aspirants can pay the money demanded, these institutions and their managements are becoming the biggest threat to and are negating the constitutional rights of the minorities. A student from an economically backward minority family cannot get admission in a minority institution. If anybody dares to question them, she or he is harassed. In the Karakonam Medical College, owned by the CSI Church, goons of the management and the police jointly attacked the mediapersons who brought to light clear evidence of capitation charging fee and other irregularities in the admission process.

 

This stand of the UDF government of Kerala does not bring any hope to the students regarding a solution of their problems in a proper and just manner. To this government, lathis, grenades, teargas and guns are the most suitable instrument for solving the issues in the education sector, and with this attitude the luminaries of the UDF are using this very kind of methods against the struggling students. If hundreds of students with serious injuries are under treatment in various hospitals, hundreds of false cases have been are registered against them. One thing is certain, however: If the Indian folklore described Kerala as the Godís own country, the student community of the state is in no mood to allow the devils to rule this land.