Monday, May 12, 2003

Knowledge of Learning

As an ancient civilization, India knew sciences & under stood art eons ago. It could boast of some of the earliest universities and education system, unknown to mankind till that time when much of the world lived in bushes. Some of the finest minds and an array of exceptionally gifted litterateurs were distinctly Indians. Alas! Not now. In the race to a more scientific, learned & logical age, India stood still, moving by small steps when the world at large galloped like spotted gazelles, never to look back. India was left behind in something very cardinal ~ Education.

Motley of factors compound to reason this fallacy. Fundamentally, flaws exist in our school education, our higher education & the way we actually impart education. Government & bureaucracy are equally hand - in - glove.

The super-structure of a great nation is laid on its school benches. The state of Government schools in India, where most of the nation is educated, is simply put abysmal. A paltry pass, percent age of 26. Mere 100 teaching days in a year, poorly trained teachers, overcrowded .classes or classes with no benches at all (to lay foundation of a nation on). These are real stats. The dropout rate is quite high. In India, the schooling levels can get alarmingly low. Parents are dissuaded in sending their wards to school because schools go up to a certain grade & are often run-down. Although elementary education is largely free, hidden costs are many. Students abhor schools because there is no demarcation between punishment & discipline. No matter 35 million children in the age-group 6-10 are not in schools.

Apart from keeping the fees stagnant at 50 cents a month for close to fifty year, Govts in near succession have lacked a clear national educational policy. Red tape is too involved (incidentally their own children study in public schools or aboard & often cites poverty as a hurdle to illiteracy. Not with standing the fact that even the poorest of parents are keen to have their children educated. It is another matter that various barriers keep them at bay. The rot lies in the administrative inefficiency & indifference. For a change, why not grant some efficient professionals a space in our education vast lands. A degree of accountability & hard work coupled with greater results is expected of them.

A recent survey revealed that north Indian parents spend an average of little over 318 Rs/year on education expenses such as fees, basic books, slates et al to send a child to a govt. primary school. This is a major financial burden, especially for poor families with several children of ­ school-going age. The government of land would do its inhabitants a great peace of favor by increasing the level of expenditure on education from approximately 3% of GNP to 8% of GNP. More than the PM's annual musings, India needs concrete steps on the all important education front.

Another problem area is language. The constitution of India recognizes, 15 national languages but there are 227 recognized mother tongues plus dialectical variations. Regional and national language apart, the introduction of English as sort of a neutral national language is need of the hour. We can well expect an increased number of students willing to pursue higher education, as they will be well conversant with the language of science & technology. English long ceased to smack of colonialism; it is a global language now. It merits to be taught from class 1 in government schools.

A major obstacle is the allocation of funds that are available. In the past, institutions of higher learning have been supported, at the expense of primary schools, with the intention of developing homegrown talent. In effect, other countries like US, the UK etc siphon off computer software writers & engineers, leaving India to foot the education bills. Meanwhile primary schools are left wanting & those village schools, which exist, are especially handicapped with infrastructure. It never occurs to the establishment to end the subsidies to the universities, privatize higher education & let the Govt schools flourish, let the tiny classrooms have chalks & benches. Let a great nation be raised.

Sameer Bhat

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Hindus and Muslims: The reality!

When the words sound similar
and expressions are familiar
When our food is the same
and we love the identical game
When the air is very akin
and so is the color of our skin
When people always live side by side
and our laughter is so allied
When we share the same fears
and there is no difference in our tears
When our culture is cognate
and celebrations get too ornate
When we are taught the same books
and possess indistinguishable looks
When the hearts beat in unison
and the lips move without reason
It gets difficult for a while
when Shahrukh and Amitab smile
to tell their cognomen
Hey blokes...Love thy countrymen!


Monday, February 17, 2003

A Snow for Peace

The winter of 2003 sprang its first major snowfall in the picturesque vale of Kashmir today on Feb 17. The shows, a welcome respite from a protract dry spell clung fast onto the dells, so wide. This was in all probability the most awaited of the downpours and albeit it came late, people loved every bit of it. Lovely flakes of snow in their varied shaped danced all the way from the heavens & made their drop all over the beautiful landscape of Kashmir. It snowed almost incessantly & beautifully across the silent mountains, rafted roofs, forlorn pastures and the parched souls of Kashmir. One almost stood enchanted for a while in this incredible confetti of white. I cannot but marvel at the confusing maze of willow branches & wires in the bylanes hugged by barbecues of snow.

The orchards & sods present a most exquisite sight as almost every thing is painted a thick white. Although shivering cold , the spunks are high, one can warm by .

In these extra-ordinary times when everything eludes the Kashmiris, at least the good 'ol snows don't fail them. However in a place where nothing can get right at a given time, a major electricity cut has begun since the clouds opened up & I jot my musings in pitch darkness by my the slender flame of my candle, listening to BBC London on a lone transistor, talking war mongering , courtesy America.
All this while it snows silently outside and in the United states.
Perhaps God 's own way of calling us to have peace upon his Lands ... White signfies peace , as they say!

The whitest of them all
and the softest of the falls

snow, snow beautiful snow.
many flakes & bits of it
Drench the twigs & buds
falls on hands & heads

Rooftops, tree tops & topless rills;
on highways & lowlands
upon the pen & a little nest;
over these mighty mountains
and the tiny eggs in the nestling;
Snows stick to black umbrellas
and the aquiline noses of my people;
Pilling on the moulds & trusses
splashing many faces & tresses
Snow, God has a treasure-trove

Give us more of this love

Sameer Bhat