Belling The Cat

The state government has set up a monitoring committee to evaluate the infrastructure of private coaching centers and accordingly revise their registration annually. While these centers have mushroomed in the state over the last decade, the trend speaks poorly about the quality of education provided by state-run educational institutes, Bilal Handoo reports.

Muzaffar Mir is a medical aspirant enrolled at one of the many tuition centers located in Parraypora on the outskirts of Srinagar. Braving cold, he gets up early in the morning to make sure that he reaches the class well before others so as not to jostle for space inside the centre which is often overcrowded. As the teacher enters the class, some students are unable to find a place to sit. They complain to the administrator who advises them to come early instead of creating noise and disturbing others. Left with no option, the students huddle together at the door and on windows, and the class begins.

Mir is often unable to comprehend the lectures due to a huge number of students present inside the class. When he attempts to raise questions, they are lost in the din of noise inside the classroom. Also, the teacher has no time for debates since another group of students has already gathered outside the class. Once the class is over and the other group of students gets in, a student like Mir has to face peskiness by non-serious students on road. When he finally returns home, he is disappointed and bitterness takes over him.

“I could have shifted to some other tuition centre but the quality of teaching is good here which is why I stick to this teacher. But the menaces like overcrowding, noise and road scenes created by some students are worrisome,” says Mir, who recently finished his Class 12 from MPML School in Srinagar.

The state administration finally woke up to this menace on Tuesday and ordered J&K police from nearby Sadder police station to take action against some private tuition centers. The police party led by Station House Officer (SHO), Vishal Manhas, inspected the arrangements at these tuition centers, some of which are run in tin sheds. “On-spot inspection revealed that most of these tuition centers were unregistered and overcrowded. Besides, there was no proper infrastructure in place,” SHO Vishal told Kashmir Life, adding, “This led us to close them down.”

Vishal, who has done his post graduation in Mathematics from Jammu University before joining civil services in 2009, says, “In my hometown Jammu, craze for coaching classes is more but the students are never being offered coaching inside temporary shelters like these which have become money minting machine for their owners.”

Aghast over the action taken by the state administration, the management of private tuition centers questioned the rationale behind the police action. Few days ago, the management had a meeting with Directorate of School Education, the competent authority that regulates functioning of coaching centers, which has given them 15 days to meet the criteria set by the J&K government. “We have taken a strong notice of all these issues concerning private tuition centers and have concluded that it is a serious human rights violation that needs immediate remedy,” ZA Bandey, Officer on Special Duty with Directorate of School education, said.

However, many people believe that the government should have taken these steps well before the winter vacations since students mostly avail coaching at tuition centers during the winters. “It was pathetic to see how these men who brag to provide quality education to students are openly violating the standards set by government,” a miffed SHO Vishal said.

This recent police action against these coaching centers has other dimensions as well. As per the Sadder police records, on an average 15 complaints of eve teasing are received per day, “Blame it on the unregulated number of students who come to visit this area. I have personally reprimanded unruly student a number of times but the code of conduct is something that needs to be taught to these youngsters at parental level,” SHO Vishal says.

To regulate the functioning of private centers in the state, a government order dated April 30, 2010 says: “No educational agency shall establish/run a private tuition centre without the prior permission of the government or competent authority.” New registration will be done against a fee notified by the government which has made it clear that the renewal of registration shall be granted only on the basis of good performance of a private tuition centre in the preceding year. The performance evaluation will be carried out by a monitoring committee appointed by the government.

The private tuition heads maintain that they have already registered at the state’s Labor Department. “Now we are being asked to register our centers at Directorate of Education, which is fine. But let them give us some time to do that,” said Dr Bilal, who teaches Chemistry in one of tin sheds at Parraypora.

While there have been instances where these coaching centers have been accused of charging students exorbitantly, the state government guidelines have also asked the coaching centre heads to maintain a proper record of tuition fees. Besides, they have been asked to notify and display tuition fee charged from students subject-wise and class-wise per course 15 days before the start of tuitions. “For the completion of a course, I charge Rs 5000 per subject from students. In case of students from low income background, I charge them Rs 2000,” Dr Bilal says.

Recently, the Directorate of School Education (DSE) received a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) from DIG traffic raising serious concerns on the roaming of students on Parrypora road. “The PIL has expressed serious concern on the mushrooming of tuition centers alongside this road which remains busy with VIP movement all day long,” ZA Banday, OSD, DSE, said.

Besides road concerns, there are other apparent loopholes in these tuition centers. While laying the guidelines in 2010 for mandatory physical facilities before setting up tuition centers, the state had clearly directed their owners to locate it in a noise free area and allot nine square feet to each candidate. These guidelines were openly flouted, “Overcrowding and noise around these centers openly violates the government guidelines,” SHO Vishal says.

“Keep a separate waiting room, separate toilet and separate drinking water facilities for female candidates in the tuition centers,” the 2010 guidelines read. The existing infrastructure at these centers has failed to meet the government’s criteria. The guidelines had also sought comfortable seating, cooling and heating arrangements for students, besides supply of electricity.

There are, however, many tuition centers which have raised good infrastructure since they came into existence but they are only exceptions. The area in Parraypora where these tin sheds have been raised for imparting coaching looks like a dingy colony surrounded by plush residential houses. For one shed, the monthly rent is Rs 10,000. Most of the centers have no washrooms for students. Besides, the usage of loudspeakers by teachers spreads noise to other classrooms, thus creating disturbance.

“I do agree that some tutors resort to overcrowding of students in their classes which is unfortunate. But not everyone is doing it. I have spent Rs 1.5 lakh on the maintenance of my centre. Besides, I never invited students to seek tuitions from me. They come on their own,” Dr Bilal said. He says some people are wrongly connecting crime with the practice of tuitions, “Unfortunately, the recent acid attack was seen through the prism of tuition centers by some people. I mean, crime can happen anywhere. Then why to blame it on tuition centers?” he says.

Senior Superintendent of Police, Srinagar, Ashiq Bukhari held a meeting with the administrators of large number of tuition centers operating in Srinagar on Tuesday and assured that unruly students who vitiate the environment in and around the tuition centers will be taken care of. The SSP advised the administrators of tuition centers to issue ID Cards to their students, “CCTV cameras will be installed in the vicinity where large number of tuition centers are operating so as to keep a close vigil around the vulnerable areas,” Bukhari said. He also provided designated Helpline numbers to the administrators of tuition centre in case they wanted to seek police help.

While it will take some time to ensure a good academic atmosphere for the students at these coaching centers, the state, it seems, is serious to put an end to this growing menace. Early this week, the district administration in south Kashmir’s Islamabad ordered closure of six coaching centers having inadequate space and lacking other basic facilities as per the government norms.

While the critiques of tuition centers are growing by the day, many argue that the key role of such places can’t be brushed aside since they play an instrumental role in nourishing the talent of students in Kashmir valley. Ironically, this should have been the responsibility of the educational institutes run by the state government but who will bell the cat?




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