On the Absurdity of Education in Kashmir and Perverse Incentives Thereof: A Tale of Three Friends

On the Absurdity of Education in Kashmir and Perverse Incentives Thereof: A Tale of Three Friends

Adil Rashid Bhatt

What should be the ultimate aim of education policy? Should it pell-mell take a leap in the dark by churning qualified but unskilled graduates from educational mills in the hope that these prospective job aspirants would one day purportedly hit the jackpot? Or policy retrospectively be revamped it’s with respect to job creation and cater to these unemployed cum unskilled but apparently educated dudes without drawing a long bow about its alleged achievements?
To elucidate my point let me narrate a fictitious story of three friends here.
Shahid, Saqlain, and Saeed studied in the same school where they forged a strong friendship. Of all the friends Shahid was most efficient whose family lived in penury; Saqlain was from a affluent family always rolling in money and unmindful of his brazen display of opulence, so he was never serious in his studies; while as their friend Saeed,being an average student, was from a middle class family whose father dealt in the cement business. Shahid who lived some twenty kilometres away from the main town secured his future by cracking the medical entrance test in one go on a open merit seat. Saeed , although being good in studies, could not make it to the coveted doctor seat, and being proficient in English he humbly sought admission in honours literature in a local college. And cracking the entrance was not Saqlains cup of tea, albeit being a perennially reserved category candidate-his forefathers also carried this formidable RBA reservation, by virtue of which even barren hens of their family were government employees and it was hole and corner policy of their affluence -from a nearby village that fell in the proximity of town.
But, as Saqlain was born with a silver spoon in mouth, living in clover, his stars of luck equally shone on him and he soon hit the jackpot by traditionally getting selected as a government employee in a benevolent scheme of the merciful government by dint of reservation, just after passing intermediate (12th). School days were over, and his two other friends, oblivious to this unexpected development, were studying hard in their respective colleges as they had to crack any examination for employment on an open merit seat.
Saqlain despite being a dull and undeserving started to make castles of air in his imaginations. He would now outlandishly keep other two friends at an arm’s length, and never sought to meet them ,as greed , avariciousness, and superciliousness had cast holes in his contemptuous and palpable heart. He was flying in the air unable to fathom depths of sea.
While as Shahid had made it clear to settle overseas after completion of MBBS, his friend Saeed was in a fix. Saeed’s life, after college, rife with unflinching struggle, became a butt of jokes for his acquaintances, family and relatives as every time he would sit for examination for job he would miss the God sent opportunity by a dinky margin of two three or four points. His life had come to a standstill and he was at a moot point as how to chart the future course of action to crack the examination and get redemption from this quandary. His friend Saqlain, who was a government teacher now, meanwhile, feathered his nest, and seldom cared to pay a visit to his friends.
Desperation of joblessness prompted Shahid to migrate overseas and procure a job. Saeed continued his endeavours but to no avail, so, to avoid rank and ruin of his life he compulsively joined a local private school at a paltry monthly pay of seven thousand rupees that would hardly make his both ends meet. Being a literature enthusiast he was assigned to teach the English subject and prepare students for debates. Saeed was content with his meagre income but a strange feeling would eat him from inside; he would rue the thought of social injustice that was apparently being meted to him and thousands of meritorious candidates like him, and would knit his brow at appointment of any boy in a government job from his neighbouring village.
He cursed his fate for being born in an unpriviledged village. Apparently ,there was no difference between his and reserved category villages; earlier there was some discrepancy in facilities being provided to his village and other backward villages,but a paradigm shift in development over the successive years had obscured ,in fact vanquished, that perplexing discrimination, and Saeed’s village was far behind in government jobs ,and overall development than Saqlains. But politicians had an axe to grind, apparently for their vote bank, to not promulgate a bill and replace the titles of “RBA” and confer it on deserving villages where educated employment ratio was falling with each passing day.
As fate would have it Saqlain and Saeed met face to face once again at a district level debate competition where their students, dressed spick and span, were supposed to participate in the marathon of debates. Saqlain knit the brow on knowing that his students would complete against his friend’s students. For him it was below dignity to field his students against students of a private school teacher, notwithstanding the fact that Saeed was a proficient debater himself and was always ahead of Saqlain. So, he haughtily told Saeed to move out as flagging a dead horse is a futile attempt to win accolades.
Saeed took a long sigh and blithely reciprocated with a chuckle. But inside both were at daggers drawn. Naturally, Saeed’s well trained and well taught students would have outwitted Saqlain’s pack of poorly taught students; Saqlain was humiliated and unable to fathom the defeat at the hands of his private school teacher friend. Saqlain pulled a long face and was at his wits end. He had not yet seen the seamy side of getting a government job through privileged means. He wanted to escape from this hornets nest, and soon he played truant for the rest of the rituals of the program, and left the venue.
Saeed won the trophy, medal, and acclamation,but never secured a government job. So like his doctor friend, he decided to move out of state and elude this inexorable injustice that had been hanging like a Damocles sword on their bright futuristic prospects. Thinking about another woefully ignominious humiliation at another debating venue Saqlain resigned from his teaching job, and waited for elections to file his nomination for farcical elections which didn’t solicit any educational qualification. Eventually he won and became minister of education of the mauled state. He soon promulgated a bill stipulating reservation even for backward animals, barren hens and assorted species in animal husbandry colleges and departments throughout the valley. In his magnificent reign, greasing the palms of people at helm was made a mandatory ritual to secure a government job.

— The author, from Laram, Islamabad (Anantnag), can be reached at: bhatadi43@gmail.com