This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Money for schooling and nothing for free

In most of my blog posts I write in the abstract. Seldom do I write something out of my own experience.
Back when I was a student in the institution of learning pictured above, we had what we thought was an onerous enough schedule. Those were the days where we had five and a half day school weeks, and five of those days were spent in uniform, and each day had five hours of classes and an hour’s lunch break. We’d spend ten minutes of that hour eating and the remaining fifty on the fields, playing – and there were three large fields to play on, not to mention wooded slopes where one could clamber around to one’s heart’s content.
Each year, after the final examinations were over in November, we’d contact those we knew among our seniors and buy their textbooks. Those books would be of no use to them in their new classes, and we could save sixty or seventy per cent on the cost of new textbooks. All that was fine with the school administration. They were busy running the school, scheduling classes and examinations, and so on. No one had any desire to rock a pretty stable boat.
I guess someone suddenly had a bright idea. I guess someone suddenly decided they could make a lot of money.
The first sign was when they filled in the swimming pool and built a new wing over it. More space. More classrooms. More pupils. More revenue.  
Then – for no reason I can determine to this day – they chopped down forty huge trees that had stood for as long as anyone could remember on the slopes I mentioned. I remember the super-incompetent Brother Noronha, Catholic monk and principal (who later left the calling, and no bloody surprise either) declaiming before the assembled school, “We cut down forty trees and we planted four hundred trees, and we intend to plant four thousand trees.”  Even then I found the argument dodgy. Four thousand? Wouldn’t they, er, occupy a hell of a lot of space? Where would that space come from?
Guess what? Last I looked, not one of the alleged forty trees, after the passage of so many years, has been replaced.
Then – even as the school timing shrank to five days a week, this achieved by extending daily schedules and restricting the lunch break – they stopped giving out the sports gear which they had been lending out every afternoon to those who wanted it. No explanation given.
They shut the hostel down, because boarding students took up a lot of space and that space and money could be better used to build yet more big buildings – and, yes, more classrooms, more pupils, and etc. Naturally, the weekly evening movie went for a toss as well.
Well, I left. I went to college, then medical college. But when I came back to my hometown on holiday I’d usually take a walk over to the school to see what things were like. I came, I saw, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Remember those three fields I mentioned? Two are lined by wire fences, and locked gates. You couldn’t get on them if you tried.
The slopes are also sealed off. No entry, very sorry, boys. Go and play someplace else.
The third field is now an almost exact counterpart of a Second World War prisoner of war camp, with tall barbed wire fences breaking it into boxes. There is no way anyone can even get on those fields.   
This at a time when schools throughout India were desperately looking for playgrounds and trying to at least appear to be promoting some sort of sports culture.
Remember the days I spoke of, when we used to buy our seniors’ textbooks?
You can’t do that any more. In order to ensure that you can’t do that any more, they change the textbooks every year. And since there are not that many good textbooks anyway, the dross that comes in is pretty awful. Our long gone Radiant Readers and similar texts are supplanted by something written for someone with the understanding of a two year old and the attention span of a jellyfish.
Hell – you can’t even buy the books that they prescribe in the market any more. You can’t even use exercise books not sold through the school, without the school’s coat of arms on the cover, any more. You can only buy through the school’s shop, at rates the open market can only dream of charging. And meanwhile the fees have gone up by several hundred percent – naturally.
They even reduced the number of subjects by restricting the languages taught. This saved on teachers employed and salaries. Result: net earnings up.
Oh – did I mention that wearing school-supplied tracksuits is now mandatory on those days when the school gives pupils their strictly rationed quota of drill time? We had done perfectly well with our flannels and blazers. They can’t.
And what is the result of all this? Has the school’s right to make a profit on its investment paid off?
Back when I was in this school, going by results and public perception, it was among the best schools of North East India.    
Now, it is not even thought of as one of the best three schools in Shillong.
Ah well, who cares, so long as the moolah is flowing in.

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