OPED: Free Education in Sikkim; Boon or Bane?
Education is the first step for people to gain the knowledge, critical thinking, empowerment and skills they need to make this world a better place. Education is the only means through which we can uplift the society. Sikkim became the 22nd state of India in 1975 and during these initial days as an Indian state, there were very few educational institutions and there were no higher educational institutions at all. And in late 1970s higher educational institutions were set up and as per the data of the 2020 we have nearly 1300 schools, and we have nearly 30 institutions including Colleges and Universities which includes both private and Government.
Today, the students of Sikkim are getting free education, and we see the politicians in the chair as well as the opposition parties having their political talk. They say we will work to establish a better education system, we will change the education system. But, the reality is that the education system in Sikkim has become worse, the quality has degraded, somehow, or somewhere it has been commercialized, the future of the students is not given preference. Now, the system is going into a bad track and after five years the parents have to think a thousand times as to where their children can get a good education?. At this point of time, parents are also in a compulsion to send their children to private schools in search of better quality education far away from their home despite having Government schools near their homes. Everyone wants their children to get good education as education is the only means through which the weaker sections of the society can come up, but if the education system is worse than how can we say that the weaker section of the society will come up. And in Sikkim we are getting free education, but the government has to ensure that students who have the desire to go for higher education are able to go to Colleges and Universities to study the subject of their interest. If we go for surveys throughout the state of Sikkim and if we visit the villages in the state, we can meet with thousands of young people who had the desire to pursue higher education but couldn’t go to cities due to inflation and other economic hardships. Education is free for sure, but there are various issues which the student has to manage by themselves like room rent(accommodation), travelling to their campuses, procurement of books and stationeries and the students from poor family background do not have houses in towns like Gangtok, Namchi, Gyalshing etc, Which is indeed very hard for a simple family to afford and most of the families have more than one child who pursue higher education. Thus, this has become a problem which will lead to a situation where quality education will be available to only those who have plenty of wealth and can afford to send their children to the cities for higher education. The government has not provided good scholarships for these sections of students, and the amount of scholarships that the students studying in Government colleges of Sikkim never crossed six thousands in a year. And one can imagine whether that amount will be sufficient or not, till now no person nor any politicians have raised the issue of the enhancement of the Scholarships to these students. Some scholarships are pending for the last two years but the Department, nor the Government, has not taken any action nor has it taken any steps so that students believe that the department is for the welfare of the students.
Students are studying with complete frustration, fear, financial problems and the Government seems barking every time saying free education is given to all. Now, the time has come as we are
witnessing that schools are running without teachers, without electrification, without water facilities,and other basic facilities needed for giving quality education, Universities are accommodated in Colleges. Colleges do not have access to good libraries, students do not have benefit of excursions programme and while the students seek for the excursions programmes, they have to act as a slave of the concerned Department and have to go to the Department daily and unnecessary harassment is given to the students.
The slogan of free Education is heard in the villages and if anyone is not satisfied with my writing then interested can visit the villages and meet with the villagers who have not lived a life with joy, happiness and full stomach because these people have sent their children to study in Government institutions.
So, education, despite being free, has become extremely expensive in Sikkim. This has forced us to question whether we are really governed by a welfare oriented government?
By Anish Sharma. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed are those of the author, not of Sikkim Chronicle