Thursday, 28 January 2016

Fighting the Plague in Education

Camus’ The Plague can be symbolically read as Kashmir’s story, including the story of its Education sector.
In order to solve countless problems in communication that cause divorces, end friendships and alliances, breed enmity and hostility between those who are otherwise co-workers or share ultimate goal, one needs to remember a few things that are defended by the greatest of thinkers and upheld by world religions and saints:
  • “No man is wilfully bad.” Those who seem to be indeed bad don’t really know how they are injuring the soul by evil actions. If they indeed knew – one’s degrees or post doesn’t help here – they would not do evil.
  • Hate the sin and not the sinner.
  • Judge not. 
  •  Ignorance is the root cause of vice. Knowledge is virtue.
  • We need to listen to the other, then true dialogue could ensue.
  • Our perceived enemies are Heaven sent, embodying God’s jalali attributes. In fact it is our Spirit who projects them for its own growth. They are friends in disguise and, in a sense, invited for completing the action of the drama that requires villains. Anyway life is ultimately a drama whose Director is God and our only mandate is to do our assigned role well. 
  • Ego is an illusion. Almost all fights are at bottom ego trips. It is good that ego – the devil – is hurt as it helps one become enlightened. “I was humiliated and I got enlightened.” 
  • As long as man imagines he can forgive someone it implies the ego that may or may not decide to forgive or sense of agency is still there. What is called for is surrender of will and unconditional forgiving.
The following quotes are from the work The Mantle of Initiation  excepting the last one which is from The Book of Spiritual Advice authored by Islam’s Greatest Master of Irfan or gnosis:
  • Do not urge leadership upon anyone.
  • Take no joy in a reputation flattering to yourself spreading among the general public, even if you deserve it.
  • Care nothing for the ignorance of him who does not know your worth; rather, it is not seemly that there be any sense of your worth even in your own eyes.
  • Have no desire that people should listen to your speech.
  • Be not anxious to give answer to anything displeasing said about you.
  • Be content with [God’s] Decree not necessarily with each thing decreed, but, rather, with its Decree itself. And receive with joy whatever may come from Him.
  • Do favors for both friend and foe, treating all alike with humility, gentleness and long-suffering.
  • Pardon the one who has harmed you, that is, do not even defend yourself [from harm].
  • In general, you should hold a good opinion of everyone, and your heart should be at peace with them.
In the light of these maxims let us approach a “crisis” that arose recently, precipitated by perceived victimisation policy of Director Education, whose significant contribution to development of education as District Development Commissioner, Bandipore, whose rapport with teaching community (most of the well meaning teachers supposedly represented by the  Teachers Forum are not just praising him but pray for his long innings), whose skills as educator and not just as administrator have been noticed by some of our best educators (he had the guts to introduce and direct performance of some of Plato’s dialogues that have bearing on education), whose heart being the heart of a poet, reportedly beats faster for the less privileged, are  all well known. He is also known to act unlike dilly dallying bureaucrats and like Corporate bosses speedily and sternly and thus efficiently. I don’t wish to analyse politics and “educational” philosophy  of abuses thrown at the Director– I may remind him of Sir Syed who, while campaigning for what is now AMU was sarcastically greeted by shoes, and he gratefully accepted it saying he can sell it for raising funds for his project – nor call for public audit of the Forum’s policies or its credentials – moral, intellectual and technical – as a representative body  of teachers who are required, by the very nature of the job assigned to them, of soul-fashioning and character building, to love teaching and ideally not to envy or opt for administrative posts, and use the most refined language nor question supposedly hidden agenda in testing teachers or its arbitrary nature that examines Masters or even PhDs leaving undergrads or some apparently inefficient people untouched. Instead, I draw attention of fellow columnists, civil society members and teaching fraternity and authorities in education to one of the greatest works in twentieth century fiction Albert Camus’ The Plague that can by symbolically read as Kashmir’s story including the story of its Education sector. It calls for noticing the plague that is all around us, stinking and need to fight it collectively and the fact that deep consciousness of suffering unites us all, dissolving egos and making us all compassionate. Camus tells about widespread epidemic that afflicted inhabitants of Oran and its hero who is a doctor named Rieux who, by all appearances, shunning all consideration of reward leaves no stone unturned to help the community heal. It tells, among other things, about what ultimately counts and unites us all – solidarity that common suffering calls forth amongst victims. Isn’t it tragic that we don’t notice plague that has consumed so many and we keep building personal empires? Every year faulty education system that has no philosophy or vision, kills souls and minds by killing spark of creativity or critical thinking and produces moral/intellectual cripples is a sort of plague that causes more damage than 2014 floods and yet we show no solidarity. 
      Almost all well-meaning and informed teachers would agree that the most recent attempt to treat plague by authorities seems to have been the most target specific. The doctor appointed to supervise healing programme thinks that some members of his own team appointed for healing bodies and minds need to be first checked against infection and the kits for healing they possess are in order or they are indeed updated regarding the tools they use – a reasonable hypothesis that can easily be verified. Strangely some of the team members refuse the diagnostic test and take to streets leaving plague stricken community shocked and dying. This community asks why it hasn’t the right to be treated by those only who are indeed capable of treating them. 
      Factors that further intensify plague include privatization where it costs too much to be treated and proper healing is made more difficult. The community and members of teachers fraternity as public servants embodying the true spirit of constitution can’t afford neutrality at the time of moral crisis and must fight champions of feudal and capitalist values that have been unnerved by some success of recent radical measures to tackle plague at multiple levels.  Now since community has suffered terribly at the hands of previous regimes of healers, generally speaking, it is becoming increasingly conscious and can’t be taken for a ride this time.
      Let the Teachers Forum publicly argue its case – teachers are trained or expected to politely argue and not to agitate or dictate in democracies – (it looks disgraceful to chant slogans for the cause of education that persuades or does what Socrates called midwifery – a teacher shouting is sacrilege for likes of Plato) and propose a comprehensive policy for treating existing problems including possibly infected lot in its fraternity to prevent further spread of plague.  Our teachers become protestors as if community could learn no other way from dialogue to sacrifice from nation builders. If the only force against failure of communication and politics of confrontation is education and if educators fail themselves, we can only wait for the doom as the plague consumes all. The maxims  quoted above imply we acknowledge our guilt and pain of near and dear ones and proceed to help the dying community. Rationale of this or that decision we can gracefully post-mortem or challenge in court but we can’t lose sight of the objective that we all share which is fighting the plague and not the healer and seek the glory of God and not of ourselves.

1 comment:

  1. Assalamu Alaikum, can a teachers' movement be started (named something like HalalKhoor Teachers Movement) who could initiate a change.