Of stone-throwing and dilapidated buildings . . .

In class last week during a course on Speech Communication,  a student wondered about the role of physical noise (sounds, objects, etc., that distract and therefore affect communication) in our classrooms of yore when students sat under a tree and listened to their guru with all of Nature as backdrop. Well, noise or no noise, it was probably infinitely safer back then! At least they didn’t have parts of their building suddenly collapsing on them.

 Like it did on Saturday in a college on the outskirts of Hyderabad, killing one student and injuring several others.

So what’s new? School and college buildings have been collapsing with tragic regularity all over Andhra Pradesh.  Undoubtedly it’s a shocking and distressing incident, but as if to prove that one death is news and several just statistics, the media and the government have gone into a tizzy over the incident. The Chief Minister has ordered the inspection of all private colleges in the city and the tabling of a report thereafter.

Hey-lo? Now this is what I call stone-throwing by people in glass houses. Except that we’re talking dilapidated school buildings here, and other people  children  are getting hurt. The management of this college is guilty of criminal negligence  no two opinions on that. But I’m dumbfounded by the government’s disparagement of conditions in corporate colleges. 

For one thing, the Neerada Reddy Committee submitted a scathing,  extensive report on these conditions last year. What happened to the report? Why hasn’t action been taken on it?

For another, what about government school buildings? Yes, go ahead and inspect all private colleges. But shouldn’t that favour be extended to government schools as well?

This picture of a government school (from Kalpana Sharma’s article on primary education in India in last Sunday’s Hindu)  is representative: 

 

 

 

 

 

A lot of government schools are little better than this. Like the ZP school in Madhapur, in the heart of Hyderabad’s “Hi-tech hub” — a stark contrast to the sprawling, luxurious buildings around. 

When basic sanitation, ventilation, space, and safety are compromised like this, how can we expect children to be in  any frame to study? 

As Sharma rightly asks in her article:

When we can contemplate investing in nuclear arms and energy, in highways and airports, in oil fields and mines, in industry and the market, can India not build schools?

 Government schools in Hyderabad beg the question: if governments can invest in swanky airports and countless SEZs, why can’t they spend on decent buildings for schools? Why do we repeatedly elect such governments back to power? What is happening to the taxpayer’s money?

And we hear all the time of plans for more and more universities, Centres of Excellence, IITs and IIMs. Depressingly ludicrous. What is the point in investing in higher education when the base of the pyramid is rotten and tottering? Will any government have the sense to redirect at least a part of that funding to primary education?  

 

 

 

 

 

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13 Comments »

  1. Quirky Indian said

    SS, I hold you in high regard, but you’re really pushing your luck when you use ‘government’ and ‘sense’ in the same sentence. 😉

    Cheers,

    Quirky Indian
    http://quirkyindian.wordpress.com

  2. QI:

    More name-calling, eh? You are … erm… an old master (!) at damning with faint praise. 🙂

    Governments lack sense. There – that’s a sentence with both ‘government’ and ‘sense’. And it meets your quirky requirements too, no?

    Sigh. How I stoop to please blog readers!

  3. Quirky Indian said

    SS,

    Touché!

    And needless to say, you have redeemed yourself with that riposte. The Old Master has spoken.

    Name-calling? What? Where? When? (Really?)

    Cheers,

    Quirky Indian
    http://quirkyindian.wordpress.com

  4. davematt said

    Powerful post SS.

    What about the corporates in the swanky SEZs? Dont they have any responsibility towards the community around them?

  5. davematt:

    Actually, yes. “Corporate social responsibility” is the in -thing nowadays. Many corporate employees spend time with these kids, either of their own accord or because it’s company policy; some companies also sponsor infrastructure and/or other needs of a school that they adopt. However, it’s not enough. And it’s not really done in a planned and systematic manner.
    In any case my point was about government responsibility. And that, to use a tired cliché, is conspicuous by its absence.

  6. apu said

    For those talking about corporate responsibility – I strongly disagree. Corporates pay a huge amount of tax to the government, which is meant to be used, precisely for marco issues like social benefits, law and order etc. Corporates also employ a large number of people, who in turn pay income taxes. So, let corporates do their work – I don’t think we can expect them to do the government’s job.

  7. apu said

    * macro, i meant.

  8. @ apu:

    Absolutely. The upkeep of government schools is the government’s job. And that’s what I’d said in my comment, too. I don’t think davematt was suggesting, either, that it is the job of the corporate world; the comment was about responsibility, which I think everyone shares. We’re all living in the same country.

    And I know a lot of corporate companies in Hyd. doing commendable social work. No dissing was intended, so chill. 🙂

  9. Pooja said

    Poor infrastructure has always been India’s problem. L – trust me, AP and Hyd have better roads than most parts of the country and now the best Airport, too.

    None of which takes away from the urgent need to address the very basic stuff you talked about….

  10. @ Pooja:

    Right you are. Infrastructure. I guess what bothers me is the disparity: high-rise buildings and dingy shacks; the fact that there is money, only it’s disproportionately distributed. And when children pay the price for the lapses of those in power, it’s reprehensible.

  11. apu said

    SS – right; it’s just that one hears too much talk of “responsibility”, some of it floating around very vaguely.

    Reg this issue, i.e. the schools, the problem is partly that increasingly, “infrastructure” seems to refer only to airports, roads (for motorists), malls, high-end housing etc, all of which are no doubt needed, but not at the expense of the people at the bottom of the pyramid. So, things like education, govt. run hospitals, pavements for pedestrians are being completely ignored…

  12. Prasanth said

    Hmm..the India vs Bharat debate( I dislike the usage-too corny, but for want of a better nomenclature…)

    I was just thinking the other day that within a decade or so, the first generation to have been brought up during the post-liberalization era will move into positions of leadership in the media, administration and many other sectors. the trend you and other commentators have referred to ie. the prevalence of large scale disparities between various sections of the country will might acquire an entirely new dynamic then. Whether this dynamic will be towards a positive or negative direction is something that is sill uncertain.

    But somehow I am not very hopeful.

  13. Prasanth:

    That’s an interesting observation. And I share your gloom, too.

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