Op-Ed: Poor Education standards in the Old City of Hyderabad need Immediate Reforms

Hyderabad: A middle school student dressed like “Mother India” in an event organized by an NGO to commemorate the Independence Day Celebration in Old City of Hyderabad.

By Rafi Adeen, Contributing Editor, The Rahnuma Daily (therahnuma.com)

(RAHNUMA) Hyderabad is one of the fastest-growing Indian cities in the new millennia. Since time immemorial, the Deccan plateau has been an avid contributor to the dynamics of the ever-evolving society.

Even in this current age of information technology, Hyderabad wields its clout on affairs be it socio-economic and political. After the national capital, Hyderabad ranks as the third wealthiest city in India. As per Statista 2019, Hyderabadi’s rank fifth in the highest number of Indian millionaires, globally.

Hyderabad has its own unique blend of history and modernity. Since long, the city has been regarded as a seat of learning. Potpourris of scholars, artisans, maestros, and mavens have greatly contributed to the fields of Science and Arts. In addition, Hyderabad was one of the few places in the world that had its own independent High Court, which has the distinction of being the first Court of Justice in Asia.

Hyderabad is a feast for the eyes of the beholder, the more one learns about it, the more awe it inspires. Osmania University, Osmania General Hospital, State High Court, Nizamia Observatory, Nizamia Hospital, Asafiya Library truly define the city’s peak of intellect. Salar Jung Museum and Asifia Qutub khana located on the banks of river Musi have an impressive collection of historic manuscripts and printed books dating back to the 15thcentury.

Hyderabad: School students singing National Anthem in an event organized by an NGO to commemorate Independence Day Celebration in Old City of Hyderabad.

This is sufficient evidence for any contemporary scholar in comprehending the importance given to academics and learning. The recent addition to the skyline of this affluent city is the plethora of skyscrapers of the tech giants nested in Hitech city that is redefining the here and now. This is a testament to how progressive, adaptive and far-sighted Hyderabad has always been.

Despite the multitudinous feathers that Hyderabad wears, over the past couple of decades, several misconceptions have been making rounds of the boardrooms of MNCs and Corporates of Hi-tech city. It is rumored, the graduate and undergraduate residents of old Hyderabad have inadequate skills required for jobs and are often considered incompetent at various professional levels.

Although the notion is absolutely baseless and unproven, this assumption is drastically affecting a multitude of job-seekers from old Hyderabad who are denied a fair opportunity on the grounds of their origin. The discrimination is leaving aspirants in the lurch.

To uncover the truth behind this misleading standpoint that has slowly but surely influenced the rationale of the employers, I paid a visit to the prominent Educationists and Academicians of old Hyderabad.

The men and women at the helm are a force to reckon with! These eminent personalities are pioneers and game-changers associated with the education sector for over 2 decades, who stand witness to the dramatic transformation of the education sector; this has led to a drastic effect on the standard of education and has consequently paved the way in elevating the literacy rate in old Hyderabad which is commendable in more than one ways.

Hyderabad: A Primary school student during an act staged against “Child Labor” in an event organized by an NGO to commemorate Independence Day Celebration in Old City of Hyderabad.

However, it is still arguable whether it really provided the desired impetus to the prevalent education system? Has it brought about a difference in the quality of education provided? Has it ushered in the age of intellectuals the society thrives on?

To get a clear hands-on understanding of the situation, I had a one-on-one rendezvous with the following intellectual personage:

Few notable mentions who generously provided their insights are:

Dr. Lubna Sarwat (Social Activist), Mr. Syed Munnawar (Founder, Career Guidance council), Mr. MuneeruddinAlvi (Author and Prominent educationist), Mr. Mohammed Abubakr (Founder, Muslim Professionals Network), Mr. Riaz Shaikh (Dean & Advisor, Challenger Civil Services Academy), Mr. TaherFaraz (Founder, Creative Educational Society) and Mr. Mohammed Saji (Academician).

Dr. LubnaSarwat (Social Activist)

Dr. Lubna Sarwat is a social activist and economist who has been bestowed with a Doctorate in Philosophy from Trisakti University- Jakarta, Indonesia; she runs several community centers across the old Hyderabad.

Kicking off the discourse, LubnaSarwat stressed upon the Directive Principle enshrined in the constitution of India that emphasizes largely on the provision of free and compulsory education to children aged 6 to 14.

She remarked, “Owing to frail financial circumstances, the formative years of many children from old Hyderabad are lost earning a livelihood to support their families in an effort to make ends meet”.The consequence of several literacy drives conducted recently by her revealed a sharp rise in the number of dropouts who have cited various reasons for their exit from education.

The majority of the students blamed it on financial stress, interest-laden debts and at times an alcoholic parent. These damning setbacks that haunt the families suck out the very marrow of life from a growing child. Hence the increase in the number of dropouts every year is linked to the socio-economic factors.

She further added, public representatives viz., MP/MLA/co-operators/officials have an immense responsibility. They must ensure that no student especially from ages 6 to 14, residing in the periphery of a government school is denied the right to education.

On the contrary, instead of backing the underperforming students of class 9 and 10 to fare well in examinations, teachers in several government schools blatantly discourage them from appearing for the examination, dreading the low scores would fetch disrepute in the eye of the Education Officer. Taking into account the adversity of the students, one can safely deduce the last thing on a teacher’s mind is the future of students.

Hyderabad:  Underprivileged School Children from Talab Katta Slum involved in a community outreach program organized by an NGO in the Old City of Hyderabad.

The passive attitude of school management and lack of zeal of the teachers is confining the spread of the light of education far and wide. This shirking away from one’s duty is forcing the girls and boys from poor households to stray away from being literate, educated and informed citizens.

In a recent development, central universities like MANUU and IGNOU have discontinued taking in students for UG courses who are 18 years or older. This is absolutely demoralizing, especially to the students from lower economic strata who missed on the UG degree, nevertheless, want to pursue further studies.

This change in attitude has effected pockets like old Hyderabad. LubnaSarwat counsels women to embrace education for empowerment. However, at times the prospectors find the doors closed or the journey arduous.

Sarwat emanated joy, harking back to the ordinance issued by the Allahabad and Chennai court which directs all government officials to enroll their children in government schools. It is considered as a progressive step that will impart fresh lease of life to the declining health of government schools. The edict will ensure that the standards of education provided in government schools and colleges would scale up towards experiential learning standards.

However, she frowned realizing the situation on the ground is far from factual. The representatives of the government who are bound by directive principles of the constitution to furnish the needy with free and compulsory education are flagrant enough to endorse and encourage private educational institutions, which is totally contradictory to what they abide to.

In her view, the ghettoization of minorities through TMREIS (Telangana Minority Residential Schools) is a bane rather than a boon. When students are confined to ghetto-like environs, they fail to acquire the essential social etiquettes. Besides losing out on broadening their outlook towards opportunities that life provides, it ultimately impacts their confidence with their self-esteem taking a dip.

A student’s mind should be exposed to the cross-section of society in order to attain knowledge of the diverse cultures and heritages. Every classroom should reflect the huge diversity of India. The management of schools should nurture the students such that they grow humane, ethical and informed citizens, opined Sarwat.

Hyderabad: A middle school student delivering her speech in an event organized by an NGO to commemorate the Independence Day Celebration in Old City of Hyderabad.

On a closing note, she laid enormous stress on ‘Round the year literacy drives’. This will aid in understanding the socio-economic situation of the deprived sections of the society. Collection of information and statistics through the door to door surveys will provide an accurate assessment of the struggles.

Syed Munawar (Founder, Career Guidance council)

Syed Munawar is an educationist, a visionary and founder of an NGO named Career Guidance Council. The NGO has over 10,000 active participants and is working relentlessly for the past 15 years with numerous educational institutions on providing career counseling to students of different standards and streams. The NGO was established at a time when MNCs in Hyderabad was in a nascent stage.

Every Sunday, week after week sessions are conducted at Urdu Ghar and TQF library wherein CGC volunteers pitch in to impart guidance on education and share their experiences with the wannabes. On one such Sunday, a meeting was arranged in the premises of Urdu Ghar.

Kicking off the conversation, the first question directed towards him was on the quality of education in old Hyderabad.

He took a deep breath and looked visibly agitated when he exuded his thoughts on the issue. He said “The conditions of schools in old Hyderabad horrifies me! Most of the schools established are on a meager 200 square yards which is totally unacceptable.

The classrooms are cramped with students as if they are a flock of sheep. The majority of the schools are devoid of basic amenities like a Library, a Playground, a Science and Computer lab which is quite appalling. It is questionable how the government is allowing such schools to function!”

Venting out further, Munnawar stated these run-of-the-mill schools charge a low fee from the students and hire teachers on a paltry salary who are not even holding a Bachelor’s degree in Education. What can one expect from teachers who themselves are found wanting? With these deficiencies, the teachers are at the helm, teaching students of standards 8, 9 and 10, often clubbing these classes together that invokes disgust.

No student would ever admit that he would prefer doing a blue-collar job rather than becoming an engineer/lawyer/doctor. The underperforming student cannot be blamed for his poor performance, as it is obvious he is a victim of circumstances.

It is quite evident the fee collected is too low to run school operations. Hence, to compensate for the expenses they mislead the benefactors of the school with flawed metrics of expenditure incurred by the school on students. Thus ensuring the financial aid is steady to fill their coffers. None of the money received is spent on the welfare of the students.

Hyderabad: A middle school student delivering his speech in an event organized by an NGO to commemorate the Independence Day Celebration in Old City of Hyderabad.

Syed Munawar lambasted schools that deliberately lay little importance on subjects like Social Studies and English. These are considered crucial subjects for students who aspire to appear for UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) examination.

This negligence shatters the dreams of many youngsters who wish to become an IAS, IPS, IRS officers. The shabby attitude of these lackluster schools demotivates a student who grows pessimistic with regard to the opportunities that await him. Hence, the number of Muslims serving in civil services is infinitesimal which is alarming, given the Muslim population in the country is 18 crores strong.

These purported schools target middle class and lower-middle-class families by misleading them with false claims on the education provided by the school, be it Islamic education, Computer literacy, or Digital classes. The innocent parents fall prey to the enticing propositions.

However, what is promised is never delivered once the admission is complete. These private schools are out of order and have become obsolete, they merely run for the sake of garnering money. These schools should be shut down unless they follow the guidelines.

When asked to comment on the possible reforms the government should take and the responsibility a parent should take to alleviate the difficulties faced by the students, Syed Munawar solemnly congratulated the Government of Telangana for introducing various development schemes for the deprived and underprivileged. He sneered at naysayers who blame the government for the state of education in old Hyderabad, calling them ill-informed and deluded.

Furthermore, he emphasized how badly the schools fail in imparting moral values to the students thus leaving a void in the character development. He believes moral values and formal education go hand in glove and should be taught together.

He was very critical of parents who do not provide breakfast to their children who attend school. “How can a parent be so careless and let their children fend for themselves,” he exclaimed. Because of this reckless attitude, many children are developing a taste for junk food which is quite inadequate and harmful to the health of developing children who often fall sick consuming the ill-fed, undercooked foods”.

He grew nostalgic, as he drowned in a reverie recalling the memories of his college days. He thanked the benefactors of the community who invested generously in establishing several engineering colleges around Hyderabad. However, the quality of engineers who emerged from these institutions is contentious. Most of the engineers and doctors who benefited moved to the Middle East or the West to find greener pastures.

Wrapping up the conversation, Syed Munawar opines that the quality of education will never improve just by establishing new schools and colleges but by rekindling the spirit of learning. Seizing the opportunity he called out for volunteers to join CGC, requesting them to spend at least a day of the week guiding youngsters. He requested those who have picked up a walk of life to come back to where it all started and give back to society.

Hyderabad: High school student during a cultural performance in an event organized by an NGO to commemorate the Independence Day Celebration in the Old City of Hyderabad.

He concluded stating “A little effort will make a huge difference to the lives of the students who are dazed and confused for the most part of their student life, lacking purpose and direction, we as volunteers must lend them a helping hand.”

Mohammed Abu Bakr (President, Muslim Professionals Network)

Mohammed Abu Bakr is the founding president of a non-profit NGO called Muslim Professionals Network. It has over 2000 active participants working towards empowering the community for more than a decade. It is a bunch of working professionals who came together to provide career-oriented guidance to struggling individuals.

Over the years, MPN has successfully organized several programs at different educational institutions in old Hyderabad to create awareness of the opportunities in the market.

A man with a purpose, AbuBakr is so assured about what lies ahead for him and to top it all is his magnetic persona which is quite infectious. According to him, there are various challenges faced by private schools, the first being ensuring the fees are collected on time from the students so that the salaries of teachers are paid on time.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen regularly which in turn dampens the morale and panache of the teachers. He believes, firstly the non-payment of salaries to teachers on time affects the quality of education delivered to kids. Secondly, the environment in the school itself is so dull that children are hardly inspired to learn.

Basic amenities like a Playground, an Auditorium, laboratories, Libraries are missing in the schools. The majority of the schools neither conduct literacy activities nor any extra-curricular activities to help a student develop their command in English or for overall personality development.

Abubakr exclaimed, “The cat is out of the bag!” It is no more a secret that the majority of the employees of the Education Department are corrupt. Essential inspections are not carried out with diligence, the only intention of such exercises is to extort money from the school management. Corruption is so rampant, the shortcomings and drawbacks of the school are brushed under the carpet, it is rare to see any penalty being charged.

Hyderabad: A middle school student delivering her speech in an event organized by an NGO to commemorate the Independence Day Celebration in the Old City of Hyderabad.

On a closing note, Abubakr urged the Telangana State Government to digitize the entire school registration and renewal process. Also, the data of every school inspection carried out by the Education Department should be made available to the public eye. These developments will arrest the scourge of corruption and push the school management to maintain standards to stay abreast to the requirement of the contemporary world.

Muneeruddin Alvi (Author and Prominent educationist)

Muneeruddin Ahmed Alvi is a well-recognized educationist who has founded different educational institutions and contributed to shaping educational standards in the city of Hyderabad. His book ”Shaping a student to be a human” had gained a lot of appreciation all over the Nation.

Shedding light on the educational standards, Muneeruddin Alvi reckons, there is not much difference in the quality of education endowed in the schools of old and new Hyderabad.

He believes, the major difference one notices, is that the schools in new city admit students based upon the results of the tests designed to assess the competence of a potential candidate.

In hindsight, parents feel fortunate that their child managed to be enrolled in a seemingly high cadre school that actually fleeces parents with a hefty fee every month.

Since money is not a concern for these schools, they hire well-qualified staff. The pay scale of the teachers is decent. However the same cannot be said about the schools functioning in old Hyderabad.

For few families even making ends meet every day is a struggle, hence several low budget schools have emerged catering to the underprivileged students. It is true, the quality of education imparted to the pupils is substandard. The fee is truncated to fill the quota of admissions.

It is popular although absurd misconception among parents who believe their responsibility is complete once the student obtains an admission. The naive parents fall for false pretenses of the administration, believing they have done their part and the rest will be taken care of by the school.

The majority of the schools in old Hyderabad do not conduct literary activities or extra-curricular activities to encourage students to develop their personality. The atmosphere of the school lacks energy, this eventually impacts the students who become lethargic and irresponsible under the influence of the surroundings.

Hyderabad: Middle school students gathered at an event organized by an NGO to commemorate the Independence Day Celebration in Old City of Hyderabad.

Winding up the discourse, Muneeruddin Alvi yearns to witness the resurgence of Government schools, which were once regarded as beacons of light spreading education to the far reaches of Hyderabad.

He is hopeful the Government will consider the matter seriously and would take necessary measures to revive the standard of education in government-run institutions.

Riaz Shaikh (Dean & Advisor, Challenger Civil Services Academy)

One more personality of significant repute is Riaz Shaikh, currently working on a Ph.D. in HR from IBS and serves Challenger Civil Services Academy as the Dean & Advisor.

With a shared vision of an equitable, peaceful, and prosperous India, he is working to groom competent, happy, ethical professionals whose motto will be to attain leadership through service. At CCSA, he has introduced a pedagogical philosophy focused on Holistic, Personalized, Interactive, Multimedia, Modular, Conceptual, and Contextual teaching.

When enquired on the need of establishing an institution of such esteem, Riaz Shaikh justified by stating, “I feel guilty that I could not give back to the society when it needed me most. Nonetheless, now that I am back to the place of my origin, I am resolute to make sure the students reap benefits through my guidance.”

Commenting on the state of education in Hyderabad, with detectable dismay in his voice, he remarked, “How do students these days, unfortunately, settle for mediocrity instead of aiming for merit?” How easily the students are falling behind when competing for high grades to acquire admission into the best colleges of Hyderabad?”

The attitude of a few students is so pitiable, that they are glad to settle for low scores. They are over the moon when they clear all subjects without failing, this lack of self-belief has left them with no other option but to enroll in a substandard institution.

Riaz Shaikh was reproving of educational institutions that have made a fortune out of the business. The majority of the schools in old Hyderabad have poor infrastructure and have hired incompetent faculty who never care to motivate or challenge the disinterested students.

This entrepreneur is all in for reforms, he would love to see the whole educational system revamped. He feels the underprivileged students require a lot more counseling and motivation. There is a huge communication gap in the method of teaching. They need immediate help with the identification of career goals and relevant guidance on achieving them.

Hyderabad: High school students during an act staged against “Child Labor” in an event organized by an NGO to commemorate the Independence Day Celebration in the Old City of Hyderabad.

Calling it a day, Riaz suggested the utilization of psychometric tests that can help discover their skill level and areas of interest, which can, in turn, lead them to suitable careers. Education has the biggest potential to change society for the better, by improving the lives of individuals the society as a whole will benefit.

Taher Faraz (Founder, Creative Educational Foundation)

Taher Faraz is a prominent and distinguished personality who is renowned for his contributions to the establishment of several schools and educational institutions in Hyderabad.

He started out early, aged 20, he became an academician and education activist addressing issues of the underprivileged student community. Since decades He has been working relentlessly to uplift the standards of education in minority institutions situated in the state of Telangana.

Taher Faraz is also the founder of the ‘Creative Educational Foundation’. He strongly adheres to the notion that the Government should start more English-medium residential schools in Old Hyderabad that provide quality education. He contemplates, no matter how many schools are established, unless and until the people running the schools work diligently, not in a hundred years will we see a major shift.

Hyderabad: Middle school students gathered at an event organized by an NGO to commemorate the Independence Day Celebration in Old City of Hyderabad.

In the near future, he wishes to see several skill development centers opening in every constituency of Hyderabad. These centers will encourage students to opt for vocational courses at intermediate and degree level. Acquiring the skills will make students self-reliant and employable after completing education.

Mohammed Saji (Academician and Life Coach)

The last but not the least prominent personality in our array of intellectuals is Mr. Saji. He is the principal of a renowned School in Malakpet, Hyderabad; a notable academician and a master trainer who is working in the field of education for over 2 decades.

Saji reckons there are several major questions that are incessantly knocking on the door which are left unanswered. He questions the measures taken by the ministry of education in developing the infrastructure of the schools in old Hyderabad. He doubts the credibility of people connected with the education department.

He frequently lays stress on the competency of teachers who are employed by schools across old Hyderabad. He even questioned the relevance of D.Ed, B.Ed and M.Ed certifications that are produced by the teachers. He held parents equally responsible for nurturing the future of the students, he accentuated how vital their role is in shaping their wards.

Hyderabad: A middle school student delivering his speech in an event organized by an NGO to commemorate the Independence Day Celebration in Old City of Hyderabad.

Mr.Sajji is a proponent of reforms, he is open to advancements in the field of education. He professes his faith in mutual interaction, encouraging more interactive sessions will educate the parents on their role and help them understand the challenges faced by the students.

On a closing note, Mr.Sajji remarked, “A learner will learn every minute of his life. Once educated, he will lead the life of a champion.” He is desirous that someday soon he will behold a sight of highly educated and well-mannered Hyderabad.

The Conclusion:

Meetings with several people of prominence, who are toiling incessantly at the grass-root level to eradicate the plagues inflicting the education system in the old city, has further established the fact that there is a myriad of issues that require immediate attention from the concerned authorities.

It is baffling to learn how negligent the education department has been in carrying out the duties. It is high time the media took note of the difficulties faced by the students of the old city of Hyderabad in acquiring a decent education. Several campaigns should run dedicated to spreading awareness over the debilitating structure of the education system in the old city. These campaigns will capture the government’s attention to pressing issues.

Hyderabad: An underprivileged School kid from Talab Katta Slum involved in a community outreach program organized by an NGO in the Old City of Hyderabad.

The misconceptions that loom large on the credibility of a student from the old city is a travesty. Many deserving job aspirants are left stranded when they are denied jobs just because they are an alumnus of a particular college that happens to reside in the old city.

Most people in Hyderabad are not aware of the prejudices, the NGOs that are working for the betterment of the society at large should unite to highlight these concerns and allay all misinterpretations, thereby providing equal opportunities to all devoid of discrimination.

There is an immediate need for reforms that have long been halted.

Firstly, the government should frequently monitor all educational institutions in the old city.

Secondly, the schools and colleges which don’t house a Library, Science lab and Computer lab should be sealed and their recognition revoked unless the aforementioned facilities are granted.

Thirdly, the officials of the education department who involve in corruption should be suspended immediately and demoted.

Fourthly, the government should make it mandatory that every school should at least have a minimum of 300 square yards allotted to a playground.

The government should deny permission to people who run a school just to make money. If a school satisfies the above mentioned 4 conditions then only the school should be recognized by the government.The intellectuals of the society should stand up and pitch in their contributions to the cause of empowerment.

Their reforms should start at every level, students, teachers, principals, founders, community leaders, political leaders should all contribute their share in advancing and bettering the condition of schools in the old city.

There should be monthly training organized on behalf of the government and the NGOs on developing the necessary skills to sit required to make teachers and head of the institutions more capable of raising and maintaining excellent education standards which can be equally standing with different educational institutions across the country.

Hyderabad:  Underprivileged School Children from Talab Katta Slum involved in a community outreach program organized by an NGO in the Old City of Hyderabad.

Rafi Adeen is a Contributing Editor for The Rahnuma Daily (theRahnuma.com), the online English daily edition of The Rahnuma-E-Deccan Daily (ReDD), India’s oldest Urdu daily print newspaper. Established in 1921, ReDD is ranked by the INA (Indian Newspaper Association) as among the top five most widely circulated Urdu newspapers in India. He can be contacted at rafi@therahnuma.com

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