When teachers turn villains

Even as students all over the country fill up their forms to enter university, students from Assam present all too familiar a sight, forced as they are, year after year, to beg universities to allow them to fill forms and attend classes till their teachers back home have decided to check their papers, and declare their Class 12 state board results. It’s the same this year, with the delay in results of the Assam higher secondary examination dashing the hopes of thousands of students aspiring to pursue higher academics outside the region. The only students who have made it to universities outside are those from schools under the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).

The buck in Assam’s education set-up, meanwhile, stops nowhere. “The finance department, which hasn’t taken care of the teachers’ problems is to be blamed for what has happened,” says Pankaj Bora, state education minister. “My ministry has solved whatever we were supposed to handle.”

That, of course, wouldn’t make things easier for students such as Migom Doley, who got their HS science results only on June 9. “It’s too late for me to try for universities in Delhi,” says a distraught Doley. “The government is playing with our lives.” Along with thousands of his batch mates, Doley will now have to spend a year in the state before he can leave for higher studies outside the region. Others such as Reward Basumatary have spent thousands of rupees travelling to the metros to appear for entrance exams, only to find on their return that they haven’t made the requisite cut-off marks. “I would not have had to go all the way had I got my results on time,” Basumatary now says. For students of limited means, the situation is that much worse. So much so that students, who have all but given up on their otherwise pontificating teachers, have now decided fall back on student organisations. “What are they doing, aren’t they for us?,” asks Runashree Baruah, who is still waiting for her HS (Arts) results.

For its part, the All Assam Students Union (AASU) has now decided to launch an agitation to fight the situation. “We will hold a series of protests against the education minister and his department,” says Prabin Boro, president of the organisation. And this isn’t the first time Assam’s students have had to teach their teachers. Earlier, students of Guwahati’s prestigious Cotton College had to take up the issue of teachers preferring to make their millions through private tuitions, rather than do their bit in the institution that had employed them, on salaries set by the University Grants Commission (UGC).The effort, incidentally, failed after the teachers reportedly managed to split the students, with the affluent ones then launching a signature campaign in favour of tuitions.

Hardly surprising then that the irony of the present situation is yet to sink in with the unrepentant teachers of the state who have jeopardised students’ lives to press for demands such as non-payment of salaries. “Some teachers get paid for only eight months in the year,” says Hitesh Deka, principal of the KC Das Commerce College in Guwahati, and general secretary of the state College Teachers’ Association. Not that the blackmailing has helped, with the delayed-results ploy the teachers have tried for more than ten years now failing to get them their full salaries. Yet those are the means they will continue to use, as willing as they are to victimise their own students, in breach of every contract in the book. In Assam, there are teachers who teach, and there are teachers who deserve to be taught. Sadly, the second lot seems to outnumber the rest.

By Debashree Dey Adikari(newsfiledelhi@hotmail.com)