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Building Institutions – OpEd

Earth. Photo Credit: NASAEarth. Photo Credit: NASA

If grand buildings, with colorful layout and impressive designs lack essence and purpose, they are mere nuisances since it is not the buildings alone that matter, the real significance belongs to the joie de vivre brewing within its premises and its usefulness to the outside world.

Academic campuses are a telling example of enormous buildings with even air solidified, nowadays, while the glossy apartments and colorful layouts are a class in itself. Alas! Very few of these have been able to stimulate an institution in a real sense.

Institution is the right atmosphere for striving towards achieving excellence. It is done by exploring the set-patterns, experimenting the new ways and emerging with an entirely exclusive vision. But for us, unfortunately, it means a shelter for mushrooming and accumulation for stagnation. If we see the establishment of Qaid-i-Azam University (1967) and Jawahar Lal Nehru University, (1969), India, these structures were constructed almost at the same time but JNU turned into the institution and the former lost its worth in the race of excellence and in keeping equal pace with the latter. Not only this or other universities outside India but a plethora of Muslim institutions in India only have been showing a declining trend and have not turned to the institutions of excellence.

Sometime back, I met a noted academician in Delhi and sought his advice about how to become a good and learned academician. He took a deep sigh and replied, “If you really want to groom yourself and be a real scholar, just come out of the Muslim institutions which have remained mere buildings now, a bunch of concrete structures characterized by a lethargic, crazy, attitude-less and materialistic stock. They practice integrity but in the form of nepotism produce quality only by reproducing their own young generation at campuses, a simple quality of same race and relationship, kinship and friendship. They work to secure their future not for students and exercise their own authenticity by arrogant treatment, exploit their positions for employment of their own chunk whenever they get the opportunity and never for the good of poor students”.

He further said, “They victimize the researchers who work under them by burdening them with their personal work including bank matters, telephone bills and even domestic toil. They are hardly concerned about helping their students or enhance their knowledge by exposing them to rigorous studies, research endeavours, horizon building and objective guidance, etc. but take them for granted for official things and non-living commodities, wasting their precious time and hardly helping them when they face the wrath of clerical staff, registration problems, speedy completion of their projects, etc.” The situation is never destined to take any particular shape on its own and it is the efforts, or the lack of efforts, that ultimately shape the end product. The situation would never have been so grim had corruption, favouritism, nepotism, authority grin, hollow professionalism and lack of curiosity, been checked at a proper time and done away with.

A top helmsman in any such institution feels defeated and useless, unless he or she accommodates his/her son or daughter as a lecturer or something else, irrespective of whether they deserve it or not. For the institution, they have a firm belief that it will sustain itself!

Similarly, we see people, who hardly deserve a professorship or readership, exploiting their influence to get things done in their favor. How can such a trend lead to building real institutions? How can such an amateur mushrooming around campuses lead to the production and molding of excellent researchers, scholars and empirical, scientific, philosophical texts by our own men and women? We are relying, have been relying, and will, for all the times, be relying on the thoughts, theories, methods and theorems of westerners for the only purpose that we have maligned ourselves and the institutions with greed and creed.

We have been, for the most part of our evolution, concerned about forming linkages with influential people, keeping in good books of the politicians and staying close to the powerful while the positions that we hold have been neglected and the professional demands have never been met, as a result, we do succeed in getting our children adjusted in colleges and universities even when they don’t deserve, but destroy the fabric of the institutions we are a part of. A classic parasitic nature we have!

Why are our state universities declining day by day despite proliferation of higher education? It is primarily because we have avoided the ethos of education, how to teach is a big dilemma, how to contribute is a much bigger dilemma because of the bureaucratization of education. Academics are only after each other; they feel jealous of each other and hardly try to work in a sincere fashion; they do not do something for themselves in terms of contributions to journals nor do they encourage their students to do so. Today we have thousands of universities and colleges in the country but see the output which is dismal, even communication of students is too poor to ask a question to a foreign scholar aptly.

Nothing seems going right; everything is in chaos in universities and colleges, which have turned mere buildings and inside nothing but chit-chat, smoking, leg pulling, lobbyism, discrimination on communal and regional lines, chai culture,(discussing rubbish while sipping tea), chalta hai culture(don’t worry things will take care of themselves), all time parties, irrelevant discourses, enjoying food in seminars and conferences, enormous and continued academic tourism, futile political discussions, perverse arguments, complaining and ill will against each other, criticizing those who work sincerely, crushing students, etc,.

How can we accomplish the goals of quality, objectivity, research aptitude, excellent learning and teaching in such a state of crisis particularly when we are devoid of the ample and sincere academic leadership?

Our institutions must not be based or funded on the basis or identity of religion, sect, caste or community, such a trend may help us feel integrated in the beginning but we will lose pace with other excellent institutions. Education has to be very general, egalitarian and without reservation politics, so that the sense of being treated equally, prevails among all. There should be the concept of open competition without identity or community or religious crisis. Mushrooming has to be stopped as academia is a challenging job and every tom, dick and harry cannot be an academic for just his family influence, political connection or relative at helms in academia or elsewhere. Last but not the least, silent violence in the form of oppression upon the student community has to be checked and scholarships have to be increased and provided in all the universities of the country to relieve student’s concerns and sufferings.

Teacher–student relationship has literally shaped into a power relation, which is interest based and has lost the academic ethic and taste. Such issues have to be addressed to revolutionize academia and build real institutions of research, excellence and true knowledge. Let us convert buildings into institutions by dedication and love for this prophetic profession, for the sake of all future generations to come and for the holistic humanity. Someone has rightly said, ‘Give a man a fish; he will eat for one day. Teach him to fish and he will eat the rest of his life.’

Let us make it by improving our institutional outcomes, let us ponder over institutional reforms to be turned into reality one day. Let us introspect about our contribution in academia, let us evaluate our work done and see its relevance in the current globalised world. The crux of the story today is that academia today is hardly a community of intellectuals and therefore the whole show appears like much cry and little wool.


About the Author

Dr. Adfar Shah
Dr. Adfar Shah
Dr. Adfar Shah, (Adfer Rashid Shah, PhD) is a New Delhi-based (Kashmiri) social analyst and columnist at various reputed international and national media groups. Being an academic he has more than sixty publications besides hundreds of conceptual articles to his credit. He has been writing on South Asia's socio-political realities at Eurasia Review since 2012, where he is Special Correspondent for South Asia Affairs and recently elevated to Associate Editor (English) for South Asia. Reach him at [email protected]

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