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Reorganizing Education Apostolate

Posted on: 1 Dec, 2014

Modified on: 1 Dec, 2014

By Mr. Benjamin Lakra

Reorganizing Education Apostolate
( A talk to all Jharkhand Bishops & Major Superiors Forum at social Development Center, Ranchi on 25.07.05 )
Introduction
Your Eminence Cardinal Toppo, your Lordships and my dear major Superiors of the various Religious Congregations, I am here this morning to share with you some of my views on reorganizing the education apostolate in Jharkhand. Please note well that I am not an educationist hence, my views on the subject are based purely on my simple observations and may small experience. I will, therefore be extremely happy if my observations help you in your deliberations in the coming days to reorganize the education apostolate of the Church in this region.
Our Role
You are all aware that importance of educating people can never be overemphasized. If human life is the greatest gift of God, education is the greatest gift of man to his fellow beings. Well realizing this fact the church has engaged itself very actively in the task of educating people right from its earliest days. For more than last one hundred years, we are the leading players in the field of education both in quality education and mass education. The Church with its 1100 schools, colleges and other educational institutions in this part of the country is meaningfully contributing its mite to shape the destiny of our country and building the nation. 5000 men and women are busy molding 3,00,000 young minds from all communities, irrespective of their caste or creed. Out of this almost half the students are girls, increasing the female literacy in the area. This also makes us the single largest organization engaged in educational activities, next only to the Government. If we have the will, we can change within on time the face of our state, as we like. Till about two decades ago we almost had the monopoly in quality education and there was hardly anyone to give us a challenge. Of late many major players have entered the field of education. These very players are influencing the Government Policies in their favor and at our cost. I do not see anything wrong in it as this is the age of competition and for the survival of the fittest .
However, this has resulted in a situation where our educational institutions And we are faced with number of problems. On our part, we have failed miserably to equip ourselves to cope with such a situation and face the challenge. The demand of the day, therefore is to reorganize our education apostolate by working together with a clear vision and a definite policy.
Major problems
As stated already we are faced with a number of problems. These problems are due to external as well as internal reasons. External reasons are basically due to Government policies, which are guided by the political compulsions of the party in power and we can do hardly anything about it. On the other hand internal reasons are because of our own weaknesses, which are many in number.
To understand the problems in their correct perspective, I have categorized our schools in three distinct categories on the basis of their character as these three different categories of schools have different types of problems. They are:
1 Recognized / unrecognized schools in the rural areas
2.Recognized / unrecognized schools in the urban areas
3. Elite private schools.
Schools in the rural areas
I will first take up the problems of our schools in the rural areas. We have primary schools in almost every important village. Similarly, almost every parish has a middle school for the boys as well as for the girls. More important parishes have at least co-ed high schools. These schools are mostly known as Janta schools. Opening permission, government recognition, minority declaration, approval of the posts, appointment and nonpayment or irregular payment of salaries to teaching and non –teaching staff due to highly erratic release of fund in the form of grants are the major problems of all these schools.
Even after teaching for years and successfully sending children for the Board Examination the opening permission is not given. I have, however, come to know that some of our more enterprising Fathers and Sisters have come out with a very effective method for obtaining the opening permissions by paying Rs.50, 000, of course under the table. I do not know about this method being in conformity with the Christian values they intend to impart in these schools. Even if the opening permission is obtained, the recognition becomes even more difficult. Nothing moves automatically and years of running from pillar to post follow .If the queer movement of the files are not followed relentlessly, there is every possibility of its getting lost, only do be found with unchristian method. Then there is the process of minority in which in most of the cases we ourselves goof up. There are many instances where the management failed to apply for this in time and the Government took over the schools. Only after that we wake up to claim it back . Long litigation follows, where the staff invariably opposes the management.
Approval for posts is yet another matter, where the efforts are very frustrating and the management has very tough time. Interference and ban on appointment, which has been lifted just two days back, only after the court orders are also very frustrating. Maintaining service books, getting the services verified, pay fixation done and forwarding the pension papers to my office are some of the problems in which the management and the staff do not even know what to do.
Due to all these problems our schools are dying a slow death. The teachers are starving due to not getting their salaries. There is total lack of motivation amongst the teaching staff, as a result our schools are not up to the mark and we are producing more dropouts than successful students in these schools. In fact our schools in the rural areas, with few exceptions are only producing ‘ayaas’ and laborers.
Schools in the urban areas
The problems of our schools in the urban areas are also more or less of the same, namely opening permission, government recognition of salaries, maintaining service books, getting the services verified, pay fixation done and forwarding the pension papers. However, some of these schools still continue to maintain their high standards mainly due to the fact that various religious congregations are running them. Unfortunately these schools have the strong tendency of becoming the schools of the third category i.e. the elite schools. This is a very dangerous tendency and must be checked without any further delay. Let these schools remain minority schools in real sense, about which I will be talking little later. A new problem has cropped up recently for these two types of schools and that is, the government wants an independent and distinct governing body as a registered society for each of these schools. This will not only complicate the matter further and make running the schools very difficult but also further weaken our strength and erode the authority of the church.
The problems of the schools in the third category i.e. the elite schools are totally different but of more serious nature. As they are expensive and elite in their character, they do not have any financial problem and I will talk about their problems at the end.
What is to be done?
As I have already stated in the beginning, the need the hour is to reorganize our education apostolate by working together with a clear vision and a definite policy. I have some suggestions for your kind consideration.
1. Let us have a common distinct character of our schools. Our schools must have “Minority” character in real sense, where the management is by the minority community, the teachers are of the minority community and students are from the minority community. At present we are only misusing the Minority right provided by the constitution of India, particularly in the urban areas. M.R. Arulraja in his well researched book, Jesus the Dalit calls it very rightly; “Minority Rights in its perverted sense indeed.”( page 35, Jesus The dalit by M.R. Arulraja). Though these schools are Catholic institutions, enjoying minority rights, there is hardly anything Catholic or Christian about their service and it is like the service one gets at a petrol pump: fill the tank, pay for it and that’s all about it. There are very few schools where catechism is taught, weekly or monthly Holy Mass is held for the students and the children are encouraged to go for confession. This is having serious repercussion in our society. For these schools getting maximum number of first division is the sole aim for reasons better known to the management. Because of this the children from the very minority community for whom the schools are open are denied admission. The doors of the schools are, however open for other. This must stop.
2. Let us have a common distinct service condition for our teaching and non – teaching staff. The selection procedure, appointment, probation, leave, promotion, salary and retrial benefits must be common to all our schools, which must be distinct and different from others. This will make the job of the management simpler, easier and less painful. This will also help in getting the more dedicated and motivated ones to join our schools.
3. Let us have a common distinct syllabus and curriculum. At present we do not have any common distinct syllabus and curriculum and every body is free to follow his or her own. The situation is chaotic and there is absolute lack of the sense of unity and belonging. The common distinct syllabus and curriculum, I am talking about must have heavy input of Human, Tribal and Moral values. We must also include in the curriculum at least one tribal language, the language of the area where the schools is located. This single act of teaching tribal languages, I assure you all will bring about tremendous changes in every aspects of our society. We have already lost a lot of tine in this regard. However, it is always better late than never. One of the weakest points in our schools is we curb the independent and natural growth of children in the name of discipline. Because of this over emphasis on discipline we have not been able to produce any good political leadership worth its name. I therefore request all present here to give a fresh look into it.
4. let us have a common distinct target group. We must be very clear as to whom we are going to educate: the nobility, the rich, the poor. If our aim is clear, our actions will also be clear. The Jesuits in the 16th and 17th centuries targeted the nobility to educate. Of late they have changed their target as a result, they have lowered their standard and changed the medium of instruction.
5. let us have a common distinct forum for coordination, supervision, policy formation and implementation. For this purpose, I personally feel that there should be an apex body for policy formation and to coordinate the activities of all the schools. What is required is cooperation from all, professional approach in the management and the will to work together. “Gram Guru” in the past had an excellent track record in this field but of late we are fast loosing this wonderful institution, like many other handed over to us by our fore fathers. I strongly suggest restoring it to its former heights. This itself will solve most our problems.
6. Let us have a common distinct contingency fund. We need a contingency fund to fall back upon. The erratic release of grants by the government to pay the staff has caused the maximum harm to our schools. We have also spent a lot of money and energy for this. Despite this we never thought of creating fund to pay our teachers. There have been some efforts on this line but they are mostly on individual basis. The time as come when we had a common distinct contingency fund.
These are some of my suggestions. You are free either to accept or to reject them. What, however, I would request you is, what ever you do, do it united, accept or reject.
A few words abut our elite schools too. They do not always cater to the needs of the poor and the needy and ignore the poor while catering to the needs of the well-to-do and affluent section of the society in the name of service. Ironically, this is the greatest disservice by the Church to the society and the nation as it is further widening the gap between the rich and the poor in the name of service.
For these schools, almost as a rule, the most important issue is their results in the board examinations. Without any exception, these schools are the best, making their principles among the most powerful, principals, however, do not realize is they make more enemies than friends for themselves. As a result whenever they have some work, there are more people to sabotage it than to help them.
The worst sufferers, however, in these schools are the catholic children themselves. As Catholics, though they are admitted often unwillingly, they are discouraged all along thereafter. It is a fact that Catholics are not very will off financially as compared to othere. In most of the cases they are the very first or second generation to be educated. Thus it is but natural that they always lag behind while competing with the children selected and admitted after a very tough competition from the most affluent section of the society, which can afford all kinds of extra help for their children at home. Instead fo taking extra care or encouraging them, they are ridiculed and mentally tortured by the teachers who again happen to be the wives of high government officials or men of good contacts. Even if the teachers are Catholics, often they are not locals. They neither have the will to understand the problems of local catholic children nor the inclination to solve them. The children invariably lose interest in their studies and fail, to be ridiculed and humiliated further. Their confidence is broken and they never recover it.
There is yet another way the catholic children suffer in these schools and that is the date of birth. The school authorities can never ensure the correct date of birth from the non Catholics students as it is a public knowledge as to they are maintained in the municipal records and can be changed as many times as one needs and accept the same. They, however, insist the date of birth as entered in the baptismal register for the Catholics.
There is thus, a clear discrimination practiced in these elite urban schools run by the church and its various religious congregations against their own Catholic children. It is not that the Catholic Church is not aware of the problem. The CBCI Evaluation Report, though very, mildly, accepts it, “As regards education and health services, the marginalized sections have not received the required attention. In other words, the Church has been catering disproportionately to the rich and this elitist mentality is still prevalent. Because of this mentality, the rural sectors are not given sufficient attention” (para 716 page 231, CBCI Evaluation Report by CBCI Evaluation committee, New Delhi)
It is therefore, very difficult for me to understand the logic behind running these schools in the name of service, invoking the Minority rights provided by the Constitution of India.
Before I end and you start to deliberate, my most earnest request to all of you is to ban private tuition at once, at least by the teachers of the same school.
I wish you all the very best to arrive at something tangible to reorganize our education apostolate so that our schools remain truly minority in character and Christian in their values.

Thank you.
Mr. Benjamin Lakra
A. G. Jharkhand