With the passage of the RTE, inclusive and quality education has been identified as a “right” by the government of India. This should have ensured that those with ‘potential’ rather than those with ‘privileged backgrounds’ excel in academic institutions and get the opportunity to bring about economic progress. While one may provide examples of achievers such as Rabindranath Tagore and Jose “Pepe” Mujica, the Uruguayan President, to whom the lack of formal education was never a deterrent, one should also look at the pool of informed and motivated citizens who have not been able to realize their dreams due to the absence of socio-economic “privileges” and government support to acquire education. On the streets of Sahadra in Old Delhi, an unknown “chana masala” seller, Farooq Akbar, had a similar story to share when two CCS interns stumbled upon him during their fieldwork.
The interns approached Farooq with a simple question “Do you send your kids to a school?” Farooq spiraled into an elaborate explanation that though began with usual complaints regarding government schools, ended with a discussion regarding the American education system and the Iraq crisis. While even the most educated amongst us look at the shambolic education system in India and blame the obvious stakeholders for the same, this man brought forth an interesting historical analysis. Identifying the fragmented nature of India historically, and how that made her an easy target for invaders, Farooq went ahead and discussed the hegemonic education regime that the Portuguese set up in India which the East India Company later inherited and propagated. He identified the elite institutions that these imperialists setup to further their agendas and create a loyalist class among India’s elites.
Once Farooq was done flabbergasting the interns with his deep historical insights, he decided to up the ante. He discussed the manufacturing boom that China is witnessing to while taking into consideration the poor working conditions that prevail there. In the same breath, Farooq wishes that his son could go ahead and become a mechanic or engineer, so that he can reap the benefits of an industrializing economy without requiring to be subjected to labor exploitations. However, the narration of his dreams ends with a sigh because “Sarkar toh yeh skills badhane ke liye kuch karte nehi hain. Government schools mein bacche science aur computer ke bare mein nehi sikhte hain”.
This makes the “educated” amongst us pause and wonder: What is the system that we have created and championed? Where the insightful and educated amongst us resort to selling chana in Delhi’s mid-June heat wave? Where the dreams of the educated wither away because of the whims of the “educated”.
Oh wait, the interns never asked for his CV detailing his educational qualifications.
Sayan and Supriya.