Why Baba Ramdev’s university is not the answer India is looking for

I do not know what spirituality means; I cannot afford it. I just want a degree.

 |  3-minute read |   03-09-2016
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(Based on my actual experience of helping an SC/ST student secure a seat in Delhi University, which, till the last week of August, had vacant seats due to a screwed-up online admission process.)

I am 17. Need to study in a university to get a job. I am what experts call a first-generation college-goer. That is, I am the first in my family to aspire to go to college in a country which is on the verge of massification of higher education — 23 per cent of those in the eligible-for-college age group will actually go to college. So, you see, I am trying to get into a very elite set, indeed, way above my means and station.

Don’t get me wrong.

Don’t stop reading.

I am not asking for your pity but I do hope you will give me your understanding.

Delhi University’s centralised online admission system sounds so smart, so modern, but is so sucky for someone like me. I live in a one-room house with my family, without wi-fi. I do not have a smartphone. I filled an online form in a cyber cafe, I had trouble understanding what it asked for but my friend helped. I waited. Nothing. My friend also waited, got admission (notionally) in a college, went to the college to get his certificates verified, went back online to pay fees (which requires a credit card which he did not have so he ran around for two days arranging it).

I did not get admission anywhere. I got to know seats are vacant, chased the Dean of Student Welfare, whose existence I was not even aware of. I even asked about evening shifts at colleges, but was told I had not made the cut off. Meanwhile, newspapers continued to talk about 5th, 6th cutoff lists. Btw, I do not get newspapers in my house. We make do with basics.

I have a couple of options left: commit suicide. Or join "Open School".

But, wait, there is Ashoka University, O P Jindal University, and best of all, soon there will be Patanjali University. These are expensive universities. While they offer scholarships and fee waivers to some students, I cannot even dream about going there. I know you will find it tough to believe but I do not even know where they are or how to get in.

While in other countries the massification of higher education has come through public money, in India private enterprise has mostly opened new universities.

education_090316050052.jpg I have a couple of options left: commit suicide. Or join 'Open School'.

“Unlike the matured market economies (developed countries), where public institutions facilitated universalisation of  higher education, massification of university education in India is a market-mediated process facilitated mostly through private institutions and financed by households”. (NV Varghese, NUEPA, 2015).  

My household cannot pay for my education. Take this: If I was Irish, I would not have to pay a penny to go to college in Ireland. I would be entitled to a seat and free college in a public-funded university.

Let me take you a step further.

For me, education means a job, a better life than one room.

I do not know the meaning of "sanskaari" or nationalist or have an opinion on AFSPA, do not care about the #readytowait group in Sabarimala, or have any desire to embrace or eschew foreign MNCs who take our wealth away.

I do not know what spirituality means; I cannot afford it.

I just want a degree, a place at the table.

Won’t the taxpayer fund it for me? You do go to swamis and babas and spend lakhs on their blessings, buy products blessed by them, attend their yoga camps so that they can become influential, gain political clout and open universities which keep me out.

Use that money better.

Writer

Aparna Kalra Aparna Kalra @apkal

The writer is a journalist and Delhi School of Economics alumnus who reports often on education and gender.

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