Private schools should also shoulder corporate social responsibility

Samarjit Kambam *

Students appearing for Class XII Exam (Higher Secondary Examination) at Imphal area :: 16 February 2015
Students appearing for Class XII Exam (Higher Secondary Examination) in February 2015 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

It is a known fact that private schools are mushrooming in many parts of the state at a fast pace and many private school owners are becoming corepatis within an unimaginably short span of a few years' time while the very teachers of their schools are toiling hard at an unimaginably meager pay.

The teachers are the ones who are bringing up names of the private schools but their honorarium is not justified taking into account the sweat of their brows and hardship they have endured. In Manipur, government schools are as good as nonexistent. But of late, a little improvement has taken place, thanks to the Ministry of Education for his innovative Model Schools and fast conduct of TET.

In a state like ours, parents, poor or rich have lost faith in government-run schools and hence we are witnessing a mad rush for admission of their wards in private schools. Taking the opportunity, the owners of the private schools are taking the parents for a ride, taking admission and monthly tuition fees as per their whims and fancy at exorbitant costs.

As the numbers of educated youths are exponentially on the rise with each passing year and the avenues for employment very few, many are left with no choice other than the hard choice of becoming teachers of private schools. For those born with silver spoons in their mouths, their predecessors have piled enormous wealth (most of them illegally) for two to three generations. They don't need to become private school teachers but to fill in the shoes of their fathers or elders and carry on with their family's business.

With fat bank accounts in their names they can take up ventures and business houses keeping in veil the illegal black money churned out by them by hobnobbing with politicians, police, bureaucrats and even lawyers. Some educated and highly enterprising ones start from scratch by taking loans from financial institutions and came out successful.

But they are only a miniscule percentage of the population. Their number is negligible compared to the educated youths looking for means to earn money. The monthly salary of a primary school of a state government teacher is sufficient to give monthly pays for four to five teachers of a private school as per the prevailing scenario in the affairs of education in our state.

No doubt, the private schools produce high quality education compared to government ones. It is the hard work of the hapless teachers who inculcate high quality education to the kids, but the monetary return for the time they toiled is not justified.

Here, 'Roller Coaster Write' can promptly say that it is a kind of social exploitation as teachers take a great role in shaping a good society and producing responsible and good citizens of the state and the nation. One very unpalatable reality about private schools is that once the names of the schools have carved a niche, the owners start to admit as many students as they can during the lower classes and the sections of a class usually transcends from A, B, C, D. to even H, I, J or more.

As per government rule, the teacher-student ration should be 1:20 i.e. one teacher for every twenty students whereas in these private schools, the ratio is about 1:80 where the front benchers listening and the back benchers are simply watch, a very sad education scenario. Gradually, as the students climb to higher classes, high enough to take Board Exams be it Central Board of Secondary Education or Board of Secondary Education Manipur, they are pruned in such a way that the ones low in merit are kicked out like disposable use-and-throw items and only the best ones are retained.

This is the reality show in education going on in private schools. Since only a handful out of thousands are retained, the chances of the bright and brilliant retained students holding positions in HSLC or AISSE exams are quite high. Here, I would like to bring home the point that the worst kind of exploitations are meted out in private schools both to the categories of teachers and students. The teachers with unjustified salary and the weak and thrown out students in a state of dilemma.

Private schools are also tantamount to corporate bodies. Now, it has become mandatory as per government of India's policy that corporate bodies contribute something to the society to make a just and vibrant one. It is a kind of responsibility, a social responsibility for the betterment of society. Having a corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy is an important part of who we are, in fact it is the very core of our collective being. It goes in line with development on the principles of humanism.

CSR in its full breadth and depth is, at its core, the embodiment of humanism as practiced by the business community. It acts as facilitator of a global platform wherein we strive to be unbiased, compassionate role models over and above adopting new strategies for building a better future by bringing positive changes. Nowadays, solutions are explored upon by multinational companies, NGOs as well as policy makers to address problems in the path of progress in developing countries through the means of corporate social responsibility, aiming to maximize its contributions to people and society as a whole.

Now it is high time that the government enact some set of rules so that private schools apart from imparting knowledge to the students carry out their part in caring for the society as well as growth and development of people, and communities while reducing our impact on the environment, here at home, and around the world. As one of the most significant indicators of social progress, apart from education is shouldering responsibility in various key components and areas by respective entities, CSR also plays a decisive role for a society to achieve self sustainable and equal development as corporate involvement in private schools should not be restricted to the pockets or exchequers of the owners.

Private schools should be given the thrust to provide educational sponsorship program which offers free education to young disadvantaged children such as physically challenged or orphaned, with the generous assistance of private sponsors. Such programs will help open new opportunities and avenues for such children in a poor state like ours.

The private schools should also contribute in making a positive impact on climate and making a greener earth. They should take a part in monetary contribution whenever natural disaster such as earthquake, flood, drought etc happens. The concept of development, on societal level involves multiple dimensions. CSR is also one of the dimensions.

In a state like ours with economy controlled only by a few, that also illegally, miniscule corporate growth, zero economic boom, to accomplish an all round pattern of social progress, shouldering corporate social responsibility by private schools should be made mandatory by the government or at least the newspapers and media houses should make the issue grow momentum so that it becomes a moral code of conduct or ethics of private schools.

* Samarjit Kambam wrote this article for The Sangai Express as part of 'Roller Coaster Write' column
This article was posted on January 18, 2016.

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