Friday, December 29, 2006

Knights in shining armour

Atanu Dey's article on the PanIIT conference reminded me of something similar.

It was somewhere in 2001 when BJP government ruled the state of Goa and every Goan proudly showcased the IITian chief minister Mr. Manohar Parrikar. Even I was one of them, and still am proud of Mr. Parrikar. I was an engineering student that time and didn't know how things worked in politics. I was appointed (not elected) as the General Secretary of the student council of my college by the management itself.

We got a news somewhere in October of 2001 that the Government of Goa under the able leadership of Mr. Parrikar was all set to change the face of professional education in Goa. For this, a committee of eminent persons from the fields of education and industry was formed. All these big names were true sons of soil and were willing to give their time and effort for their motherland. To kick off the effort, a grand summit was organised at the Govt. Engineering College grounds in November 2001. I was chosen from my college to represent all the engineering colleges at the summit. I was supposed to express the views of Engineering Students on the reformation idea. I was truly honoured. There was a committee set up consisting of principals of two Diploma Institutes to ensure that the student representatives spoke sense. I was called my the honourable committee and some guidelines were laid for my short speech. The guidelines were pretty simple. I wasn't supposed to speak anything bad. I wouldn't be blaming an organisation, a system, a government agency, an institution etc. etc. Although I didn't know what to speak then, I managed to submit a mushy mushy speech with praise for the CM and the esteemed committee who would be doing all the good to our educational system.

On 'The Day', there was a beautiful arrangement at GEC and there was a large gathering of students and teachers sprinkled with politicians to taste. The day began with speeches and ended with speeches. 7 hours of day 1, people from various walks of life spoke about things like 'change is the most constant thing in life' and 'industry institute interaction'. It felt nice to hear all this. But I personally as a student and a stake holder in the education system thought that the two day sessions would be more interacting. Wherein students would be asked more questions and would be apart of the discussion. This very illusion made me bring with me a crowd of students eager to give their opinion and views on the kind of education they receive. But day ! was a big disappointment and I went back home with anger, frustration and disgust.

I went home and scraped the original speech that I had got approved from 'The committee'. And jotted down 10 points.

Day 2 was even worse. The students who came with me on day 1, weren't with me today because they knew nothing was going to happen. The students were called just to be impressed with the big guys. To imprint on their minds that everyone on the stage was a Knight in shining armour who had spared his time to give us a better education. Bullshit! On day 2 teachers were enjoying the conference like a picnic and discussed food as the speakers kept talking and talking and talking. It was going to be another day of 7 hours of talk. That is when at 4 o'clock in the evening, an announcement happened saying that the student would now express their opinion. At last!

I was given 10 minutes. I went on the dais and made the 10 mins speech. Some of the points of the speech I still remember were as follows:

  1. A lot was spoken about industry institute interaction but there was not a single industrialist from the adjoining industrial area.
  2. While a lot of people spoke for about 14 hours in the 2 day conference about the status quo and the future direction of education in Goa, the real stake holders, the core and the purpose of the educational system, the students, were given 10 minutes to express themselves.
  3. Teachers did not show sufficient sincerity, how could you expect the students.
  4. No body was committing anything, not even the government.
While nobody appreciated what I spoke, there were a few nodding heads. I knew I would be stared at through out the rest of the show. So I walked out and was sipping chai peacefully. That is when, one by one, people started coming to me and appreciated what I had done, and said it was 'much needed'.

I know this entire thing sounds a lot like self praise. But don't miss the important part. Nothing happened after the event. No steps were taken by the government. Engineers in Goa are still having the same educational system.Only thing that has changed is the Government itself.

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