During school going days I read some fables and stories. Though all I do not remember some have stuck. The one goes like this:
Once upon a time a tyrant king ruled a far off country. He oppressed his subjects so much that many of them left their homes for good. Very soon the country became desolate as if ghost struck. Fortunately the king had a wise vizier. He thought of a plan to make the cruel king a better ruler. He told the king that he knew the languages of birds and beasts. The king was pleased and believed in what his loyal and trusted confidant councilor revealed.
One day the king and his ministers were returning home from the hunting. They saw two owls perched atop a tree and hooting loudly. “What are they talking about?”, asked the king. “Your Majesty”, pleaded the vizier, “It is not proper at this moment for you to know”. “Proper or improper”, insisted the king, “I must know it.” The vizier then said, “One of the owls has a son and the other a daughter. The former has asked the other if he would give his daughter fifty ruined villages as her dowry, the marriage stands fixed. The other replied ‘as long as our king is alive, I can give you even a hundred?’” On hearing this the king felt ashamed. He pledged to do justice and ruled wisely and made the country prosperous.
How many desolate educational institutions across the state of Jammu and Kashmir the nation Kashmir has to give as “dowry” to satiate the inflated egos of the state government, Educational Ministry and the education department? It is since last week of March the schools have been ruined by uprooting the teachers, masters and lecturers from the institutions and locked in Panchayat elections. As the staggered and leisured schedule stretches over to June, nearly for three months the education gets badly affected. The lecturers are assigned the duties of Returning Officers (ROs) and Assistant Returning Officers (AROs). And as conducting officers they are involved in issuance of nomination papers, their receiving, scrutiny and withdrawal, allotment of symbols, printing of ballot papers, counting of votes and declaration of results and then handing over the stationary, ballot boxes and other relevant documents. Add to it the preliminary phase of training and various meetings with the higher officials, it spans for more than a month.
Plucking the teaching staff from the schools tantamounts to make the institutions virtually barren. Already there is dearth of staff and ever-increasing number of students. A teacher pulled out of the institution throws everything out of joint. Not only students are deprived of their class (es), the vacant crowded class in itself becomes a nuisance for the entire school. With a reduced staff the educational atmosphere and discipline severely gets compromised. You have no substitute for replacement. And where some odd ones are, you can’t manage with Ahmad Kie Topie, Mahmood Kay Sar adhocist approach to compensate the losses.
Last year when because of long spells of hartal and government imposed declared and undeclared curfews life got derailed of its routine, education too shared the brunt. Since Syed Ali Shah Geelani spearheaded the campaign, every muck was thrown at his door. The rulers from Delhi and Srinagar, the bureaucracy, the news-channels, print media, the police and defence officials and intelligence sleuths, all flagellated their breast for the ‘loss of education’. Geelani was battered for being ‘callously insensitive’ and ‘frigid’ to the ‘future of young generation’. Radio Kashmir Srinagar, in its prime time evening news bulletin launched a tirade against Geelani presenting him as ‘agent of doom and darkness’. Surveillance teams were constituted to raid the education institutions and ensure the attendance of the teaching staff.
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram personally saw it that schools should be opened on a regular basis. The chief minister serenaded the ‘loss’ time and again. State education minister Peer Zada Muhammad Sayed, as his body language and gestures showed hadn’t his soul rest in calm. Driven by bouts of insomnia the “sagacious” vizier of Omar Sahab’s court pleaded for opening the schools in winter to ‘make good the loss’ the students suffered in the five months. It is another matter that after siphoning off crores of rupees for the winter schooling, the historic decision, hailed by the teacher’s community and people in general was aborted.
It is in place to mention that Supreme Court of India has exempted teachers from election duty and such other non-teaching activities. Two-member division bench of Justice SP Sinha and Justice HS Bedi have clearly stated that teachers cannot be assigned any non-teaching activity. In its ruling the honorable judges specially mentioned elections, census and polio eradication campaign and admitted that assigning duties not related to teachers’ profession badly affects the academic atmosphere of the educational institutions. In particular, the students hailing from poor families and backward areas are hit hard.
And who does not know that while government schools are made to suffer, rather made dysfunctional, by the authorities, the private schools, where the sons and daughters of the elite privileged class are enrolled, run smoothly. All six days of the week. Not a single period there goes unattended. Held accounted for each breath, and not a fraction of second is wasted. But children of lesser God, treated as garbage, are dumped in dust-bin of indifference. The naive people are deluded into believing that democracy wipes out the barriers of affluent and non-affluent classes and makes the citizens breathe air of equal opportunities. But all sound trash. The walls of discrimination and exploitation continue to get erected despite the claims of providing social justice.
When a teacher is pulled out of academic “habitat” and the tender souls are left to crane their necks for the “food” (of thought), that never comes for months together, it is a safe bet to hold that till our “kings”, ably assisted by their viziers, are at the helm of affairs, more and more owl marriages shall get solemnized. The bride owl has all reasons to be happy!