Press Release on Correspondence Students’ Protest for More Colleges

January 22, 2013

KRANTIKARI YUVA SANGATHAN (KYS)
DELHI UNIT OF ALL INDIA REVOLUTIONARY YOUTH ORGANISATION
T-44, Near Gopal Dairy, Baljeet Nagar, New Delhi-110008. Ph. : 9312654851.

PRESS RELEASE
Date: 21.1.13

Education Apartheid Exposed & Challenged by Correspondence Students of DU.
Correspondence Students Speak Out Against Skewed & Discriminatory Education Policies that Deny them Regular Education.
Agitating Correspondence Students Promised Action by DU authorities.

Students of distance learning stream (Correspondence mode) have started a campaign which culminated in a protest rally on 21/01/2013. The protest rally evoked an unprecedented response from the troubled Correspondence students who collected in hundreds to register their discontent with Delhi University’s (DU’s) discriminatory approach. These students have been involved in an active campaign which questions the discriminatory policies adopted by the DU administration and Indian state against the students studying through the distance mode. Today (21st) the Correspondence students assembled for a large protest rally under the banner of Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS). The agitating students began their protest march from Arts Faculty and proceeded towards the regular colleges like Ramjas, Daulat Ram, D-School, etc. They were joined in their protest by the Daulat Ram College President, Aditi Ramalingam as well as the former President of St. Stephen’s College, Maya John.

After the protest demonstration, members of the Proctorial Committee and the Dean Students’ Welfare came to Arts Faculty to meet the students. They informed the students that the VC was unavailable today, and that they had been instructed to collect the students’ Memorandum. Assured that their grievances would be discussed shortly in a meeting with the VC, the students submitted their Memorandum to the Dean.

Contrary to popular conception, the Correspondence student community does not concern primarily of those will to pursue studies part-time. This is a myth peddled by the ruling class to hide the ugly reality of its dual education policy. The truth is that the most of the students studying through the distance learning mode are the ones who in fact dearly wish to study in the regular colleges but are forced to enroll in the correspondence mode because they are denied admission in regular colleges. It is matter of great shame and shock that today the number of students studying in the regular courses in Delhi University is little more than 100,000 whereas around 400,000 are forced to pursue their higher education through the distance learning mode. This means that for every 1 student enrolled in a regular course, 4 are studying through the distance learning mode. This along with the fact that in the past 30 years almost no new colleges that offer higher education at the graduation level, reflects that the government is not serious about ensuring quality education to all after high school.

Our state boasts of building a broad based and quality higher education system, but the truth is that today we have an extremely elitist university system that takes pride in its exclusivity. Gross inadequacy of seats in the regular colleges means that year by year the cut-offs are skyrocketing. This cut-off system has become ridiculous to the point that even a student who scores 75% marks has to struggle to secure a seat for him/herself. Clearly the authorities who plan our education system are going by the logic of elimination, i.e. one can get selected not by proving oneself to be good, but only through proving that he or she is better than the rest. This logic of selection based on elimination which the shortage of college seats is creating has placed the student community under extreme pressure, leading to depression, low self esteem and in the extreme situations suicide among them. Today ‘to succeed at all costs, or basically, at the cost of others’ has become the supreme virtue for the students, an attitude hardly conducive for the building of a harmonious society based upon virtues like equality, mutual respect, and love.

Of course, the system of elimination through cut-offs also presumes that a student who could not do well at the school level would remain and deserves to remain a ‘poor’ student at the graduation level. The chances of academic success of a student at the high school level (and beyond it too) are based upon the kind of educational facilities, teachers and amount of time made available to him to study. It has been observed that the majority of students studying through the distance learning belong to the most oppressed and vulnerable classes of the society. In reality, those youth who qualify through DU’s cut-offs are those who come from the more affluent classes of the society, and hence, study in top-notch expensive private schools, avail state of the art education technologies, purchase the best private tuitions/coaching etc. In stark contrast to this, children from among the toiling masses are forced to pursue education at run-down cheap private schools or ill-maintained and poorly run government schools. Poverty forces many of these youth to work part-time as well. All this means that despite constituting the overwhelming majority of the total number of students, very few working class youth manage to cross the iron curtain of cut-off marks.

Crippled at the level of school education, the majority of India’s school pass-outs continue to face exclusion and denial of their education needs and rights at the level of higher education. The state’s policies continue to remain elitist and class blind as it bullishly pursues a dual-education program and maintains ‘centres of excellence’ where a select few are nurtured and provided holistic education. Even the modification of the 10+2+3 system of education by the Delhi University has been done with the objective of facilitating the smooth transition from the Indian education system to the European system for the (small segment of) students aspiring to pursue post graduation abroad. Of course, the University did not consider the impact this step could have, i.e. in terms of further intensifying the inequality between correspondence and regular college students.

In the School of Open learning nothing seems to work. Our course material is old and outdated and ill suited to the demands of the job market. We often get our reading material late; the library facility is inadequate given our huge numbers; our results often come out late, so that those among us seeking to take admission elsewhere after graduation often miss the admission deadlines. Moreover, very few courses are offered to us and some important courses like Honors in History, Hindi literature, Sociology, etc. are not available. We have nothing by way of cultural activities or sports. The Personal Contact Program (PCP) is a joke; we get classes only on the weekends. The classrooms are invariably overcrowded and the teachers are all on contract. As if this sheer inefficacy and neglect was not enough, we have to face humiliation too. SOL (School of Open Learning) staff is always impolite, as if they wish to impress upon us that being Correspondence students we are entitled to no self-esteem. When we go for classes to the regular colleges on weekends, the security staff chases us out of the campus as soon as our classes are over; we are not allowed to sit in the lawns at all, whereas the same is not demanded of the regular students. For the SOL students there are separate centers for boys and girls. “This is to protect the girl students”, we are told, but what is inconceivable to us is, why are there co-ed colleges for the regular students then? It seems we are being told that because we are from the lower rungs of society, we are not capable of decent behavior towards women, and that this virtue is exclusive to the rich who attend regular (co-ed) colleges.

We see this dual education policy: regular colleges for the children of the rich and distance learning for the children of the toiling masses as nothing less than a sinister attempt to deny the children of the latter a chance to move up the class ladder. Faced with this desperate situation, words like educational apartheid, educational untouchability begin to seem increasingly relevant to us and we feel that to oppose this rigid and unjust system is not just our express necessity but also our bounden duty. The discrimination and neglect that we are facing is not the result of carelessness or human error. It is quite apparent from the way state policies (the dual education system, four year under-graduate program, course restructuring, semester system, etc.) are being framed that our plight is the result of a pre-conceived and well thought out plan. Our protest rally is only the beginning, meant to serve as a warning not only to the University administration but also the state. We are submitting a memorandum to the Vice-Chancellor of the Delhi University, hoping that he as well as the state will respond in the earnest. If not, we would be forced to intensify our agitation and take it outside the campus onto the streets and localities from where we come.

Sujit Kumar
Member
Delhi State Committee
Krantikari Yuva Sangathan
Ph: 9312654851