Cops take class

When I was in the Class 11, my school arranged a movie excursion for students. But not all — only science students. This apartheid was vaguely justified by saying poor, pure science students are so burdened with studies and preparing for IIT also. Arts and Commerce were so lightweight, they were practically recreation. There was another, unsaid, implication. Subjects which required some English, had needless airs and needed to be squashed. It was like teachers were avenging themselves on children, for some remembered childhood slights or humiliation from snobbish peers. We fought and were scolded. The police wasn’t called in, though.

Not so at the Film and Television Institute, where the student strike has crossed 70 days.

Ruling party spokespeople embarrassingly do dubious algebra about the cost per IIT student versus FTII student, to prove that the former is productive and the latter is the product of indulgence, like this is a school debate competition. Even if their calculations weren’t mumbo jumbo, all IIT students do not build bridges in rural India. Some do MBAs, land fancy multinational jobs, enrich themselves and often leave the country, while most FTII graduates choose to work in India. So, should we use some silly argument to say the latter are more worthwhile? Obviously not. We need to have both, superb IITs and the FTII. Only a schoolboy prejudice, which adults are expected to emancipate themselves from, does not see worth in the world of art, culture and ideas. Is that why appointees in these areas are persistently mediocre?

Many have been at pains to characterise the FTII students as hooligans, thus justifying their arrest and invalidating their objections.

FTII has a history of poor policy, poor administration and attempts to sell off the prime land it sits on to private parties. These are important reasons why some batches take inordinately long to complete their graduating projects; policy issues that need to be addressed by a mature Governing Council. The government chose to appoint an ill-qualified group of people only on the basis of their ideology, instead of bringing this larger vision to the matter. So it was a mistake. It can be fixed. Is calling cops on students fixing that mistake?

If so, it’s time for a big police recruitment drive.

Because, apparently, students at the Biju Pattanaik Film School in Odisha, are protesting because they claim that their principal is a leather engineer; they are still being taught about video tapes and their sound studio’s backup power supply lasts 10 seconds. If that’s true, better intimate the cops.

Last week, paramedical students in Rohilkhand cut themselves — one attempted to hang himself — in protest because they had not been provided cheating material during exams. Apparently, most teachers don’t bother teaching, mostly handing out downloaded notes. Hence, students claimed, they were normally given cheating material to help them pass exams. The police was called in and convinced students to sit for the exams. But they may be needed again, na?

Recently, pictures of peopole clambering up a Bihar exam centre’s walls to pass on cheat sheets to students went viral. Lalu Prasad Yadav said, during his tenure, students were given text books to write exams from. They still failed. They should just keep taking exams till they pass. If they do this, people might call them hooligans and squatters and call the cops, no?

It’s apparent that it’s not students, but the system that is broken and needs fixing through a robust, broad-based and mature vision for education. Surely, it is time for grown ups to stop fighting with kids and leave playground rivalries and imaginary victimhood behind now?

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com

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