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Mahatma Smiled- Prevalence of Corruption at Indian Educational Institutions

On October 2nd, 2021 I arrived at the hallowed portals of Acharya Nagarjuna University, Pariksha Bhavan to collect my transcripts for my higher education. The person in charge asked me to pay 300 rupees as a transcript fee through challan and 600 rupees as a bribe to get my transcripts ready. I resisted to pay, came out from the department and sat down on the beautiful lawns of Acharya Nagarjuna University, and was pondering on the prevalence of corruption in educational institutions and how this needs to be curtailed. On my left, I saw a small crowd. It included the faculty, chancellor of the university, and the student community. The were putting a garland over Gandhi’s statue as it was Gandhi Jayanthi. I looked at the magnificent statue of Gandhi with great reverence, and remembered how truth should always prevail. I was downcast with the thought of the nation and its  education system that turned out to be so different from what Gandhi had envisioned. What is the use of garlanding Gandhi’s statute when the values of the university are at stake? I continued to stare at the statue and Gandhi continued to smile.

Corruption is widely prevalent everywhere in our societies. It is intractable and growing day by day than our ability to prevent or eliminate it. At educational institutions particularly, this menace is affecting thousands of students. Affording quality education is a luxury many underprivileged students cannot afford. Tuition fees, books, supplies, hostel fees, examination fees, etc make them take huge loans and it takes years for them to repay the same with interest. The government is implementing many programs to offer subsidized fees to the students. As per the Economic Survey 2020-21, the union budget has spent 3.1% of its GDP on education sector. However, despite all these efforts many students are becoming victims of corruption at educational institutions. Asking bribes for issuing transcripts can be one such thread in the fabric of corruption. Others could be professors’ absenteeism, issuing fake certifications, exchanging freebies and gifts to faculty when awarded good grades, leakage of question papers, reserving admissions for children of influential parents, etc.

Many educational institutions in India proclaim themselves as Not-for-Profit institutions but in reality, they are looting students' hard-earned money.  Why can’t a student be issued transcripts legitimately without paying a bribe to the clerical staff at educational institutions? How many students can resist such corrupt personnel and proceed to complain to higher officials at the university? If they do complain, what are the chances of the administrative team playing around with the documents of the students and thereby building rational fear in them? And above all the seed of bribing to get things done easily creates a lasting impression in those young minds and they tend to participate in activities of bribe habitually. This is how educational institutions are producing anti-social elements. The aftermath of the event had created an undesirable effect on my young mind and posed many questions. Is the university promoting fraud in its curriculum? Should I abandon the Indian education system and apply abroad? Should I conclude that all Indian education institutions are the same? Should we conclude that incidents like these are responsible for students choosing the west as a destination for higher studies?

We cannot leave our house stuck in a fire, abandon people and just think about ourselves. We need to act immediately to bring down the fire. Similarly, leaving these corrupt institutions and flying abroad might earn students’ momentary dollars and a posh life, but let’s not forget how one act of bribery will grow into a pile of recurring incidents. How the students respond to these issues of corruption will determine whether we create a more stable educational environment or face decades of far greater instability and corruption in the educational system. The students facing similar issues should not remain silent and report them to higher officials/HODs/Principal and Vice-chancellor. The person asking for a bribe should be exposed and this needs to be shared with other students so that similar cases will not arise in the future. Students should take an active part in social media campaigns towards the fight against corruption and tweet such incidents so that it would create a ripple effect in society. Government authorities should suspend such administrative personal caught in corruption cases and they should be barred from entering the university again. Salaries of the administrative department should be revised regularly. Anti-corruption and vigilance awareness events should be conducted religiously on university campuses. Payment of transcript fee and other fees should be completely made online. Private educational institutions should be granted accreditation only after meticulous checks for standards, availability of quality teaching, and non-teaching personnel, university’s mission statement and should vouch for public and students’ feedback on the institutions. Scholarships, aids, grants and other amenities should be completely transparent and available on the university website.

The University curriculum should focus on imparting values and ethics to students. Pursuit of excellence in every walk of student life should be the primary mission and vision of every university.  The student’s undeniable right to a fair procedure right from admission till graduation should be validated. Installing statues of leaders on the campuses, writing/engraving quotes from great men on the walls, advertising rankings does not serve value-based education nor freedom of expression for students. Voicing out on social issues, taking a stand, and fighting till justice is rendered is the true purpose of holistic education.  Most importantly the faculty and the university's mission should focus on building sensible, responsible, and fearless students who can stand against these social maladies rather than providing them a namesake degree certificate.

Every student should contribute his/her/their fair share to stop corruption at the root level and should not abdicate from this responsibility. A strong desire, courage and truth can bring a positive change in the educational institutions. If we can make our universities clean, free from corruption, these institutions can thereby become flag bearers of quality education and prepare the students to be the leaders for a better world.

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Tags: Corruption Reforms in Indian education system value based education


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