The government seems to be withdrawing itself from college education, going by the state of affairs in two government colleges of the district.
The riot against the falling intake at Government Brijindra College, Faridkot, is settled but unless the discontent also goes, students will get only degrees instead of education.
A major section of the teaching block of Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, Kotkapura, is declared unsafe since March, yet the repair effort is missing. The college will have only four sections in which to adjust 750 new students of English and Punjabi. Only three sanctioned teachers of the first subject and four of the last mean that more that 175 students will have to fit in one classroom. If the noise doesn't kill the student interest, the lack of teacher's attention will.
"In the 54 arts colleges of Punjab, of the 1,873 sanctioned posts of teacher, 1,073 are vacant," said Rajinder Singh, general secretary of the Punjab Students Union, who had led the stir at Brijindra College. "The parent-teacher association (PTA) money collected from students pays the salaries of guest teachers. The government contributes zilch."
Since the agitation, the seats in the first-year humanities programme at Brijindra College have increased to 900, even though the principal wanted to admit only 610, far below the intake last year. Of the 68 sanctioned posts of teacher, regular lecturers fill not more than half. "How can the college work with only 50% staff," said Rajinder Singh. "Many colleges even require principals."
"It's the first time when the arts colleges have more students than capacity," said an assistant professor. "Last year, we had to plead with students to join, for it would save our jobs."
"The trend that since 2000 had moved to engineering, computers, paramedical, and other technical courses has now swung back to pure arts because of placement problems," said Parminder Singh Taggar, assistant professor at University College in Jaitu. "The higher cost of technical courses, even after which there is no secure future, has made humanities popular again."
The availability of many new jobs in the government sector, especially in Punjab, has endeared students to the Bachelor of Arts (BA) programme. "BA is the minimum qualification for clerical and other jobs, but since in private colleges, even this course is expensive, students run to the government colleges," said Mohar Singh, a man from Sirasari. "The government should upgrade the infrastructure there."
"The infrastructure in the government colleges is crumbling," said Rajinder Jassal of Kotkapura. There's no record of the duty hours logged and teachers hardly do mark their attendance. "They count just the absent students," confirmed Anil Kumar Verma, principal of Government Brijindra College, Faridkot.
The Faridkot administration has written to the government for money to restore the unsafe building of Kotkapura's Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, deputy commissioner Ravi Bhagat has said. It has also asked for more infrastructure for Government Brijindra College, Faridkot.