OPINION ON EDUCATION: Why NBU is in a shambles – pertinent questions on the most important human development aspect ?!!
From The Statesman
By Santanu Basu
30 July 2010: Can teaching-learning thrive in an academic ambience vitiated by nepotism, corruption and brazen financial mismanagement? Why is the state government blind as to what is going on in a university that has very little to show in terms of achievement in research or academic performance, asks a bewildered Santanu Basu.
FOR the last three years or so, the University of North Bengal has been hitting the headlines, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Unlike the stir in Sorbonne University in the mid-1960s when hundreds of brilliant students took to the streets to overturn the faulty and lopsided education system as well prevailing socio-economic anomalies, the commotion in North Bengal has no such ideological underpinning. Sorbonne University’s student’s movement triggered similar movements across the globe aimed at pulling down a status-quoist system and correcting its inherent contradictions. It was all about dreaming up a better world and bringing to the fore alternative ways of thinking about man’s role in society.
But NBU students had no such glorious objectives to fulfill. Only in the mid-1980s they had waged a glorious struggle demanding the retention of English at the school level. But the agitation this time around involved a petty issue which had nothing to do with either higher education and research or reforming the curriculum and the examination system.
A very popular Bengali daily based in North Bengal has, time and again, highlighted the financial irregularities and monetary mismanagement of the University and the needle of suspicion pointed to an important dignitary. According to reports, the suspended registrar of the University, Dilip Sarkar, is steeped in corruption and has been charged by several top-level enquiry committees instituted by the University with monetary mismanagement and sundry other malpractices. He has even been accused of swindling Rs.1.50 crore! Aren’t such educators tarnishing the image of higher education in the state?
A university is a university precisely because it deals with universal aspects of teaching and research — matters of great import. A university programme covers all the essential facets of a discipline and teachers are expected to lead by example. Contrary to all such ideals, NBU has emerged as a hotbed of corruption. Expectedly, the Press and the public at large are involved in guzzling sensational and salacious stories centering round embezzlement of funds, which, going by newspaper reports, is aided and abetted by the highest decision-making body of the University.
Sadly, NBU has very little to show in terms of achievement in research or academic performance. Moreover, it is the only university in North Bengal that is enmeshed in financial embezzlement and corruption. Frequent news stories about financial defalcation have tarnished its image irretrievably and teaching-learning, expectedly, is in a shambles.
A recent Bengali film has Biplab Chatterjee, a reputed engineer at a high-profile establishment, upbraiding his wife, Mamata Shankar, a lecturer by profession, of the many rumours, hearsay and unsavoury stories about college and university teachers. Chatterjee says to Mamta Shankar (Payel in the film), “So many disgraceful things happen in the citadels of higher learning, which shows that our colleges and universities are drenched in corruption and moral degeneration. And though I am by no means as learned as a university professor, I am definitely morally superior to most of them.”
Payel tries to ignore her husband as she is in a hurry to attend a cultural soiree in her college. But Biplab persists, “Forgive my indolence, but I have come across many a PhD holder without even the acumen to clarify what exactly his/her PhD is on. What do you think you are doing in the name of teaching?”
Such a dramatic monologue exposed the hollowness, unworthiness, ineptitude, inefficiency, dishonesty and unscrupulousness of a majority of college and university teachers. Reel, after all, reflects real.
Bickering, infighting, envy, jealousy, groupism , leg-pulling, back-biting, hypocrisy, deceitfulness and crookedness are some of the major vices of today’s educators. Personal animosity, rivalry, ego-clashes and petty personal feuds are the order of the day.
And that is exactly why the kind of ideological turmoil that rocked Sorbonne has no place in today’s Bengal. We are utterly incapable of such idealism. Sorbonne reflected a philosophy and a cultural alternative that has left its indelible mark in our psyche. Even after half a century people across the globe recall its uniqueness and glory.
Martin Luther, the great religious reformer, was also a reputed theology teacher who shook the entire Christian world by dint of his erudition, scholasticism and profound knowledge. In fact, many scholars and university teachers, down the ages, have altered the face of society and have transformed the way we think and feel.
But what is happening in NBU? Is it still a centre of learning and excellence? Is it at all a university worth the name?
The famous Naxalbari, some 25 km off Siliguri, was the cradle of a movement that changed the face of Bengal. Hundreds of students of Presidency College, Jadavpur University and medical and engineering colleges in Bengal joined it for the sake of ideology; their faith propelled them forward towards a utopian goal. The distinguishing aspect of the Naxalbari movement, however, was that all very meritorious and brilliant students were at its vanguard and all of them believed that only violent struggle could uproot the rotten state machinery.
Where is that idealistic fervour today? Why are students so self-seeking and violent? The current imbroglio in NBU has its roots, as I said, in financial irregularities, petty squabbling and groupism.
Since the present vice-chancellor assumed office some two years back he has been busy cleansing corruption, which has undoubtedly taken deep roots. Many enquiry committees have been commissioned to track the guilty and, if newspaper reports are to be believed, as many as three high-powered committees have been formed to probe the financial scandal. However, members of the committees have had to encounter considerable difficulty in going about their job.
The well-meaning vice-chancellor has held extensive consultations with legal and administrative luminaries to probe the implications of the steps he has been forced to initiate. There was a huge uproar after the disclosure of the findings of one committee pertaining to financial irregularities, as a result of which more chaos descended.
Teaching-learning and administration suffered, as a result. And the relationship between the students and teachers turned hostile.
At the last leg of the previous vice-chancellor’s tenure, Congress and TMC further vitiated the academic ambience by brazenly politicising the day-to-day activities of the students’ union. Malpractice and nepotism reigned supreme as regards the appointment of non-teaching staff and organised agitation followed.
Now the million dollar question is: can, amidst such disturbance, a university function properly? I would ask Bengal’s literati to furnish a proper answer.
[The writer is lecturer at Chanchal College, Malda.]