No price bigger than an aspiration for the desired education

By Vijayshree Kurumilla. Vijayshree is a freelance writer. She lives in Hyderabad, India

I think apart from medical care, there is nothing more important than the sector of education, for any country. We are not just living in an era of tight public finances; we are also living in an era where the government spends a huge amount of money in bailing out businesses which have gone bankrupt, due to the corrupt corporate managements.

In comparison to such amounts, the allocated subsidy would be just fractional and should not in any way be done away with. I have seen how parents struggle to cope with the costs of education of their children and they run into debts, trying to fund the rising costs of education. When we are investing in the education of our future generation, we are only investing in the future of the building of our Nation.

There are many students of high merit amongst the poorer sections, who dream of becoming doctors or engineers, and the lack of financial wherewithal withholds them from achieving what they are truly capable of. Without the means of funding, they end up settling for less and also nursing some shattered dreams and hopes for a bright future. Parents of such children sell their lands or whatever little they have, to keep their hopes from getting dashed.

The same children, while studying with such a huge burden of having brought their family to the verge of financial ruin, feel an immense pressure to live up to the expectations of the family which has given up everything to fund their education. Faced with such intense pressure, these students find it unbearable when they realize they have not been doing too well in their studies. I have read about such students being pushed towards the brink by such pressure and even ending their lives in frustration.

Why then must we think in terms of cutting down on subsidies being given for higher education? No price is bigger than the well being and nurturing of our young minds into what they want to be and to the best of their capabilities.

Yes, if there is one thing that I have observed in the city where I live, it is the total commercialization of education. The colleges offering professional courses like engineering which are in great demand by people obsessed with seeing their children become engineers, especially software engineers which is considered a lucrative career, are exploiting this demand by charging hefty fees from the students and have converted the running of such colleges into money spinners, for the management.

When the government pays the subsidy for the students pursuing education in such colleges, it is in some ways enriching the management of the colleges. The managements of these colleges are becoming influential using both the money and the power to shut the colleges, if the government stops the subsidy, and go to the extent of even trying to blackmail the students to fight for the subsidy or forsake their education. These colleges also have political influence with all the money that they made, through cashing in on the dreams of both parents and their wards on a better future for them.

To stop this kind of manipulation of the system by such elements, it would be in everyone’s interest if the government spent its money in building more government educational institutions, providing the same kind of standards as the private colleges do. These educational institutions can give free higher education for such sections which cannot afford to pay huge amounts for the same.

Administrators in the past have tried to do the same, and created trust bodies to govern the universities which they had set up, to make higher education affordable to everyone. But unfortunately with the passing of time, like every other sector, even the education sector became a huge commercialized business and is being run by private managements, the way the corporate sector is being done. It is going the same way the other vital healthcare sector has gone.

In the healthcare sector, it has been a few years since; the government started subsidizing the costs of private corporate hospital healthcare. What we saw as a result of that was the growth of profits and flourishing of the corporate hospitals with that money and the complete neglect of public or government hospitals. The same hospitals, renowned for their excellence at one time, with funds from the government diverted to the subsidising the healthcare in the private sector, have begun to rot.

We are seeing the same case scenario in the education sector, but until such time as the necessary reforms take place, I would not think twice about answering the question related to whether the students should be entitled to subsidized higher education in the era of tight public finances, with a resounding ‘yes’. We have no right to play with the aspirations of our students and monetary considerations should not put spokes to their dreams for a bright future.

We are literally being drowned in various scams being unearthed on a regular basis and the loss of revenue to the exchequer, from such scams, is mind bogglingly, immense. The amount countries spend on the education sector, if you look at their budget, is miniscule when compared with their defence or other sectors. When all of us agree on the importance of education for all and to give everyone a fair chance to achieve what they aim to, the price which we are paying for that would, on any day, be small in comparison to the benefits which accrue from it.

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