Education authorities have embarked on a mission to deal a death blow to teaching of journalism in Kashmir. The process started a long way back when political expediency started dictating educational priorities. Every media student at Kashmir University is told that the heydays of the prestigious Media Education Research Centre (MERC), set up in the late eighties, did not last long. The beginning of its decline coincided with the beginning of the anti-India revolt of the 1990. Many factors are quoted to explain the downfall: inexperienced and “incompetent” faculty, exodus of Pandit and non-local teachers, nepotism, etc. There is a grain of truth in these complaints made dutifully by every student at the end of the two-year degree course. But the fact is that the same faculty held the fort during the difficult times. So where did the rot spring from? Some of the rot is inherent in the system where a university teacher can recruited for reasons other than merit because of some connection to the power and the powerful. The MERC is no exception. For example, the intake capacity of the department was doubled several years ago without a proportionate increase in the faculty or other resources, probably because the government wanted to keep potentially jobless youths busy for two more years.
The curse of the department has been that since 1990 it has no permanent head from its own faculty. A department that could not produce a head all these years is, by the system’s twisted logic, perfectly capable of doubling the annual student intake. Every profession has its needs. That is why students undergo rigorous competitive examinations before applying for medical and engineering courses and civil services. However, a bizarre system is in place to select future journalists at Kashmir University, Islamic University of Science and Technology and Central University of Kashmir and the colleges where journalism is taught at undergraduate level. In the hurry to fill the seats, students who actually score 20 out of 100 are selected. According to the good old system, these marks fall well below the failure mark of 33. A student who has effectively failed a test has been selected for journalism training! Then there is the problem of teachers, who have no experience of actually practicing journalism or any other branch of mass communications, teaching future journalists and advertising professionals. The last nail in the coffin has been implemented by once again doubling the intake of students from this year.