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Education With Character

Education With Character

We have been hearing about widespread student unrest in some popular universities in various parts of India, and often police action on the protestors. What is shocking is the violence unleashed by masked goons in Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi on January 5, injuring several students, including JNUSU President Aishe Ghosh, General Secretary Satish Chandra, and some of the professors. The Delhi Police seems to have been very passive and inactive during this violence. The silence of the police raises many questions.

It is very sad that many student groups are used, rather misused, by politicians for their selfish agenda. The youth energy is used for destructive purposes and getting dissipated. The brainwashed students are slowly forced to become anti-social elements. They convert the temples of wisdom into typical war-zones. The parents send their children to colleges/universities with a lot of hope. Many students pursue their education to achieve their dreams. The continuous unrest, the ongoing tension, conflict and violence among students shatter the hope of the parents and the dreams of the students. One wonders whether present-day education and educational centres are breaking the nation.  

In this hopeless scenario, we need to realise that there are trendsetting students also. There are students who have understood that they, as educated persons, need to build the nation. Here is a classic example of Rabeeha Abdurehim, a student at Pondicherry University. She said, “I have dreamt often about the moment I would receive my gold medal and master's certificate fondly. Never did I imagine it would end up being a way in which I could send a strong peaceful message across India. As a woman, as a student, as an Indian, today in my graduation I reject the gold medal that is awarded to me in solidarity with all the students and public of India who are fighting against CAA and NRC in India”.  

A gold medallist in Mass Communication from Pondicherry University, Rabeeha refused to accept her medal during the Convocation after she was denied entry into the hall when President Ram Nath Kovind was giving away the awards and certificates.

Rabeeha, who has been vocal about her opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act, said the special Superintendent of Police came and asked her to come out of the hall as he wanted to have a word with her. Once taken out she was then made to wait outside the Convocation Hall for over an hour.

“I could hear the President’s speech from outside. I did not know why they did this. Probably it could be due to my opposition to CAA and for having participated in protests over the issue. When I asked the police officers why I was not being allowed to take part in the event, they said they were not sure, but the SSP wanted it this way,” Rabeeha said, adding she heard the men in uniform discuss in whispers that she may be a “suspect”. In her Instagram post, she also said that no one told her why she was sent outside. Interestingly an official in the University told PTI that they did not know what had happened to Rabeeha outside. “I have been seeing news which says I was asked to remove my hijab (scarf). That is false. No one asked me to remove anything. No one told me why I was kept outside,” she said.  

Rabeeha was finally allowed inside the Convocation Hall after the President had left the venue. “When they asked me to come on stage to receive the gold medal, I rejected it. I did not want the gold medal because what is happening in India is worse. It is in solidarity with students and all the people who are fighting against NRC, CAA and police brutality in a peaceful way,” she claimed. She accepted only the Certificate from the University Official, posed for a photo and then walked off the stage. She said it was a big insult to her and her community and expressed hope that her act of rejecting the medal would convey a strong message to the University.

“As a protest against all that is happening against students in India right now, I am rejecting the gold medal. It was an insult to me and every student fighting against whatever is happening right now. This is my way of protest and it was in solidarity with all the students around India, with every boy, girl, Muslim, Hindu and every Indian out there fighting against CAA and NRC” she told News18. In an interview to The Telegraph, she said, “It was something I could do in solidarity with all the students who bore the brunt of the security forces’ crackdown for protesting at Jamia Millia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University and other Institutions over CAA and NRC”.

Just like any other common student, Rabeeha had a dream of winning a gold medal for which she worked very hard. And when that memorable moment arrived, she had a different choice altogether. She took the hard decision of rejecting the gold medal that was her life’s dream. This one gesture of Rabeeha singled her out from other students. Indeed she stood out with tremendous courage and she has given a lasting message to the student community.   

One of the seven crimes about which Gandhiji mentioned was – Education without character. The purpose of education is not just literacy – i.e. making students learn how to read and write. The ultimate objective of education is “character-building/character-formation”. Education must mould one’s character and help students to become good and responsible citizens, men and women of principles and convictions. Education helps one to know what is right and what is wrong. A student may be literate but need not be educated. The character of the student may not be good. Then that student can be called “uneducated literate”. Today’s education is compared to a ‘banking method’. The teachers deposit quite a lot of information on various subjects in the minds of the students. From time-to-time, they withdraw the deposited information by conducting Tests/Examinations. After the withdrawal, very little information stays in the minds of the students. In other words, it is an ‘exam-oriented education’. This method cannot produce good and responsible citizens.

It is the ‘problem-solving method’ that helps in character-building. It contains a 3-H formula. The first H stands for Head and it means that education must increase the knowledge of students on various subjects. The second H stands for Heart and it means that education must make students become aware of the socio-economic-political-religious issues, rather the burning issues, in the society and country. The students must be kept continuously updated on what is going on outside the four walls of the classroom or outside the school/college/university campus. The third H stands for Hands and it means that educations must enable students to reach out to the needy and build a better society/nation. Hence the purpose of education is two-pronged – i.e. character-building and nation-building.

On the Convocation day, Rabeeha said, “This is my way of showing the world what education means to us, youth; not medals and certificates but learning the message of unity, peace and standing up against injustice, fascism and bigotry. And even though for 'unknown' reasons I was sent out of the Convocation Hall where 100s of students sat awaiting their medals from the President, I was only allowed inside only after the President had left, I feel at peace for the fact that I was able to take a stand as an educated youth”. Indeed, Rabeeha is an educated youth, a person of character, principles and convictions.

Rabeeha reminded me of some more exemplary students: An MBA graduate girl was employed in a Mumbai-based company drawing a huge salary. But she quit the job and city life. She decided to return to her native village in Rajasthan to work as a Sarpanch. “Being the Sarpanch is an emotional choice and my focus is village development,” she said in an interview to a media reporter.

During a Value Education session in a Tamil Nadu school, I asked class 8 and 9 students why they were studying. Many students replied - doctor, engineer, pilot, software engineer, scientist and teacher etc. A class 8 student said, “Sir, I want to do something good to my motherland”. How many students can say this today? A gold medallist and a topper in an Agricultural University in Tamil Nadu refused attractive job-offers with fat salaries from metropolitan cities. He went back to his remote village, worked hard and transformed the agricultural system there. He said in an interview to a newspaper, “My degree certificates and gold medal should not make me lead a selfish life but help me to become a useful person in the society. I am implementing what I have studied in my agricultural field and I am happy to see the good results. Many marginal farmers are benefitting and it gives me great satisfaction”. In the recently concluded Village and District level elections in Tamil Nadu, a second-year graduate girl and another graduate girl have been elected as Village Presidents. Both said, “Our education will enable us to serve the people better”.     

A high school student in UP witnessed the recent police brutality during a peaceful protest march against CAA and NRC. His mind was so disturbed that he went back home and expressed his desire to send a letter to the UN. His mother who is a journalist helped him to draft the letter and sent it from her e-mail ID as her son did not have an e-mail ID of his own. The college/university students, who protest peacefully against CAA and NRC, are bold and courageous to question the ruling government, selfish politicians and police authorities. Most of them are very vocal and speak quite vigorously, meaningfully and logically. They have been creative in their protest by expressing their views orally, through songs, drawings and silent rally etc. Their sense of responsibility and their ability to respond must be appreciated. It is time for many future dynamic leaders to emerge from among the students. Hence, it is our responsibility to motivate and encourage the students and youth to become trendsetters, as the country needs them urgently. As educated youth, they need to build the nation.

(Published on 20th January 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 04)