Unlearning Mistakes

While the infrastructure of private coaching centres was part of a debate in Kashmir many commentators missed moral side of the story. Using three recent incidents, Suhail A Shah sketches the role of private educational hubs in the Valley

coachingMay 03 2009: An over speeding vehicle crushed to death 17 year old Romana Javed in Parraypora area of Srinagar.

30th of January 2014: 16 year old Iqra Nisar was strangulated to death in Chee village of Isamabad town.

February 03 2014: 17 year old Irfan Farooq Bhat was stabbed to death in Baramulla town, of North Kashmir.

Though the three cases, seemingly unconnected, took place in different areas of Kashmir, they do have one thing in common. All three of the victims and all the accused, were studying at private tuition centres, while the crimes were committed.

Whether it was a sheer coincidence or there is something more to this common link is a debatable issue.

“It does need a larger debate to come to a conclusion; however the role of coaching centres in these crimes cannot be ruled out altogether as well,” says noted social scientist and Head Department of Sociology, University of Kashmir Professor B A Dabla.

Dabla maintains that there is a dire need of serious initiatives to be taken to govern the overall working of these centres in Kashmir.

Over the last few years private coaching centres have mushroomed, unregulated throughout the Kashmir valley. The reason being, it has turned out to be a business with minimal investment and immediate, good monetary gains.

In 2010 on complaint of some of the parents, regarding poor infrastructure at these centres, the government had made it mandatory for private tuition centres to get registered. Education department following the complaint had passed an order number 435-EDU of 2010, dated 30th of April.

Rules, under Regulation of Private Tuition Centre Rules (RPTCR) 2010, were framed and the coaching centres were ordered to register with the department. The idea was to bring the coaching centres under one umbrella so that their functioning could be monitored.

However the disinterest of the authorities to implement these rules in letter and spirit came to fore through the government’s written reply to MLC Naresh Kumar’s query in autumn session of the Legislative Assembly, last year.

“Only 141 centres made the initiative and were awarded a tentative registration. The registration however stands null and void since March 30 2013,” the government’s reply read. Following this there has been much said and nothing done to revive the registration process.

As a result the coaching centres throughout the valley have increased manifold with the authorities acting as just mute spectators.

The murders in Islamabad and Baramulla have however thrown the debate wide open yet again. Questions are being asked as to whether these tuition centres are doing more damage than good to the younger generation and in the longer run to the societal fabric of the valley. 

According to reliable sources within these tuition centres, drug abuse is on a rise amongst kids and this menace precisely leads to other evils and crimes committed.

“Some time back I saw a student (at a tuition centre) disposing empty bottles, of a banned cough syrup, off while coming out of the centre,” said a senior police official from Islamabad, “I talked to the teachers at the centre, who pretended to be clueless.”

The official said that unless and until there is a fool proof plan from the government to regulate these centres, police cannot help, “A larger initiative from the government is the need of the hour.” 

 The question however is whether the crimes committed and the other issues faced by these kids are part of a bigger societal rot or can the coaching centres be held responsible.

“Yes the coaching centres have a part to play. The people running these centres cannot be exonerated,” says Advocate Khurshid, a civil society member from Islamabad.

coaching-2Not denying the role tuition centres play in shaping up the future of the kids, Dr Arshid Hussain, one of the leading Psychiatrist’s in Kashmir, says that there is a collective degradation in the society.

“The coaching centres cannot be looked at in isolation, even though I strongly believe that these institutions need to mend their ways to find a respectable space within the education system of the valley,” Hussain said.

Earlier, Hussain says, the number of kids attending these coaching classes were students who were good academically, “They just needed help with studies. Now every kid goes to these centres.”

 The government laid guidelines were meant only for improving the infrastructure at these places. While the issue of poor infrastructure seems unconnected with the crime the psychological experts think otherwise.

“When you cram a hundred people in a space meant for ten, it means breach of personal space,” says Dr Hussain.

Hussain argues that to humans, particularly the adolescents, the issue of personal space is a touchy one, “When they are denied this space it leads to friction and subsequently fights and crime.”

To add up to their woes, the kids are in extreme peer pressure at these institutions. Unlike schools there are no rules and regulations and this makes the whole exercise of attending coaching centres a leisure activity.

Besides, says Ms Mudassir Aziz a clinical psychologist, the tuition centres treat their students as potential customers and not students, “This is where they make money from and they cannot afford to scar their relationship with these customers by putting curbs on them.”

The most important and often neglected aspect of the whole issue is the parental guidance to the kids which, Hussain argues, has been reduced to the number of marks the kid is managing to secure.

A psychiatrist, hired by a well known school in Srinagar to help kids with moral and other issues expressed his shock at the apathy of parents he gets to talk with.

“I was really disappointed that parents of most of the kids do not want to confront with the reality,” said the Psychiatrist, wishing anonymity, “Most of the parents fool themselves by thinking that their kids are in adolescence and they will come good once they grow up.”

The people running these centres however lay the blame over the government arguing that the government has never been serious enough to regulate these centres.

“Because then the centres run by people with political clout will be shut down for want of infrastructure and other necessities,” says GN War, President of the Association of Private Coaching Centres.

War says that even though the guidelines laid by the government were harsh but we accepted them for the greater good of the society; however the government has not been doing enough for the betterment of the coaching centres and for the betterment of the society as a whole.

Moreover, War says, the trouble makers at these centres come from a certain section of the society. Recounting his own experience, War says that he had gone to a certain police station to lodge a complaint against one of the students at his own centre.

“The police in turn created problems for me given the fact that the student concerned was the son of a police officer,” said War.

This is another pertinent issue the coaching centres are facing. No matter how ill behaved a student is, his family is obviously emotionally surcharged and to think of their ward as a trouble maker remains beyond their rational perception.

Despite all the ills that the coaching centres have been associated with, Dabla is of the opinion that to altogether boycott or get away with the centres cannot be a possible solution.

“We, as a society have to look for possible solutions to deal with the menace,” said Dabla, while putting emphasis over the government’s role in the proper functioning of the centres.

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