R S Gull
KL NEWS NETWORK
In a quantum jump to revive education as an empowering tool, state run Women’s College in Nawakadal will soon have a dietary kiosk and a boutique that will market products manufactured by the students. The government is expected to help the college, one of the oldest in the old city, to acquire commercially viable, spot to make it happen.
The idea is to reintroduce vocationalization in academics in order to help students stay tuned with the market and stop becoming jobseekers, once they graduate. This was the first college to showcase the possibilities and principals of most of the Kashmir colleges were there to witness.
Students, mostly from old city localities, explained to the visiting education minister Naeem Akhtar and his deputy Priya Sethi, how they managed the raw material, how they designed the wear and how they stitched it. In a hall located on the banks of calmly moving Jhelum, the students displayed their designs and had priced them too.
“We will get some income once it takes off,” one student who had stitched a beautiful suit said. “We used the best textile and the best design but it is still cheaper than what is being sold outside.”
In the hall was another group of students busy in pepier machie. They had painted the best boxes, plates and some ornamental items looking dazzling in a dim-lit space. Some of the students were actually busy in the pulp making to make people understand that they had understood the art well.
College administration gave the dietary department part of the chemistry laboratory and that was instantly converted into a high end kitchen to help students make the best delicacies. They had displayed various items including mutton and vegetable biryani, fish cutlets, fruit custard, rainbow salad, soyabeen cutlet, missi roti, chicken items and various vegetarian preparations that even minister Priya Sethi tasted.
“There was massive response to these vocational courses,” college principal Prof Tasleema Pir said. “In almost all the three areas we have waiting list.”
Pir said that they are imparting the training after the class work is over, usually between 3 pm and 4 pm. “So far, the dietary section sold its food products for four days in last one month and response was impressive,” she said. “They have started making some profits which will go to their individual bank accounts soon.”
There are 30 students with the catering and dietary section, 40 in designing and 30 in papier machie. “We have 300 students waiting for training in the dietary course and many more in other two sections,” Pir said. “But we have problem of space.”
The display of the talents and the student capacity to start earning from the premises impressed the Education Minister Naeem Akhtar.
“These girls have given me a greatest moment of pride in a long time,” Education Minister Naeem Akhtar wrote on a long sheet well before he left the premises. “Girls, please stay the course and create your own world of opportunities…”
Akhtar said that his insistence on reintroducing vocationalization in the colleges and the senior secondary schools is aimed at empowering the students. “It has become a crisis that once students start going to college, they believe they will end up in the civil secretariat which is not possible,” Akhtar told Kashmir Life. “The certificates they get after completing their degrees is usually becoming a gate-pass and a document that disables and dis-empowers them. I want to do my bit in changing this situation.”
Education Minister said that his initiative has already led to the closure of commercial canteen in the state run Women’s College in Gandhinagar Jammu as students have taken it over.
Various other colleges have chosen their vocational subjects. A college in Tangmarg which is located in the breath-taking belt is coming up with a lavender park on 60 kanals. While a visit to it during bloom will fetch it some income, the college will have a facility to create lavender oil that is a precious commodity and in demand worldwide.
The same college, being very close to Gulmarg, Kashmir’s top tourist spot, will have a course to train students as tourist guides. “We run huge tourism industry but there is not a single tourist guide,” Akhtar said. “How long can our academic spaces be insulated from the market we live in?”
Akhtar said that the immense dependence of J&K market on services being provided by non-locals needs to be taken seriously. “But we have to adapt to the change that market has underwent,” Akhtar said. “If it is cutting-and-tailoring nobody would spit on this course but if it is boutique, it is the in-thing in market.”
The minister said a senior secondary school in South Kashmir will soon have a boutique. Various other colleges have also picked their vocations and would be showcasing them soon, he said.
Akhtar believes that separating Kashmir’s traditional vocations from the academics is aimed at killing the heritage and the culture that our ancestors preserved for centuries. “When we enrol a 10 year boy in a carpet training centre, we are actually destroying him because we deny education to him,” Akhtar said. “It would have been an impressive way-out, if we get a loom to the school and train him for an hour there while imparting him the education which is key to his growth and development.”
“We should see education as a tool to bring about a change in the society on modern, intellectual and ethical lines,” Akhtar told a group of stakeholders invited to frame national education policy.
The Minister said it is high time we break loose of clichés and come up with a blueprint for change in the education sector. “There has been immense expansion in the education system in the past few years with schools in almost every village but have we achieved what we aimed for and whether the society is benefitting from the present system,” Akhtar asked.
The Minister said education system discourages quality learning as there is over-emphasis on infrastructure and amenities which has overshadowed the basic aim of providing quality education. “Teachers and students who are the main ingredients of the education system have gone out of focus,” he said.
Akhtar wants an education policy that has emphasis on creating a skilled and motivated generation that could contribute towards development.