Dr Gopa Nayak is a writer and an academician. She has a DPhil from the University of Oxford and her first Master’s degree is in Sociology from Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. She writes in both Odia and English and her poems have been included in anthologies of poetry of women. She can be contacted at gopanayak[at]gmail.com.
I have been monitoring the debate on the HRD minister’s CV leading to an onslaught on education spiced up with the involvement of two women. The vociferous arguments for and against one or the other women have made men and media turn it into a women’s issue rather than an issue that could make or mar our nation’s future. It seems the issue has caught so much media attention, because, it is now, what seems to have become a war between two women. And as a woman myself I am not denying that jealousy is an inherent trait in us but let us not thrash the arguments as an older woman’s jealousy for a younger one.
Coming to the question that the nation, should be, and, perhaps, is asking is – if the HRD minister is capable of handling the ministry. My answer is – Why not? While we need to wait for the proof of the pudding we cannot disqualify her because of, or what may seem lack of, her academic achievements. Her credentials have been proved through her success in many diverse fields that she has ventured into. Her popularity as a TV actress and as a political leader has proven that she can understand the ‘humans’ of this diverse country. Hence, what is the danger in entrusting her with the development of resources of the ‘humans? In addition, she has shown leadership in having the courage and conviction to fight, and in some ways, bring down the popularity of those who had been taught in the premiere educational institutions of the world. However, it is another issue, if exposure and education refer to the same thing. Sometimes naive citizens of this nation are made to believe that being born and being educated in a foreign country are almost synonymous.
Coming back to our question – Is academic achievement a prerequisite for an HRD minister? The answer is a resounding ‘no’. The successful ministers, not only in HRD but in any ministry, are not those who have fat degrees but those who have the vision and understanding to take their herd along with them. Education may give one exposure and hence vision but education is not necessarily the only way to furnish oneself with capabilities that make a good leader. Our present minister has proven, in one way and another, that she can be a good leader. Her style catches attention, not to mention, her bright colour sarees with thematic emblems which stand out in contrast to the mundane looks carried by some of our minsters.
However, all the support for the minister has sadly resulted in relegating the vital issue of education and its need for a prosperous India to an insignificant corner. It should be clear to the rulers as well as the ruled that no nation can survive without education. Education can give a society the passport to prosperity. As my Oxford professor used to say an educated plumber is always better than an uneducated one. There should be no doubt that we need to have basic literacy for all; however, what that level should be and how it can be implemented is debatable. Coming back to whether we need institutions of higher learning, the answer, again, is – ‘yes we do’. However, extending it to the argument that only an academician can understand the dynamics of higher education is a fallacy.
In our democratic nation which prides and sometimes excels in argumentation, let us not throw the baby with the water. Let us not mislead the urchins in our streets by sermonising that life skills are learnt by earning one’s livelihood by hook or crook. Let us not demean the value of education offered in our educational institutions where in spite of state apathy, some of the best brains of the world, have been and are being nurtured. Last but not least, let us not be misled by the visible greens and reds of women ignoring their invisible grey matters.