Vidya Josephs Blog

NAAC and a forgotten reality..

Posted on: ಜುಲೈ 4, 2009

Mention NAAC and you see long faces and heavy sighs from almost all university and undergraduate teachers. Not many people outside these circles realise the importance or otherwise of this organisation. NAAC, or National Assessment and Accreditation Council is an independent body established by the UGC to assess and accredit institutes of higher learning. Colleges have to go in for NAAC accreditation once every five years and all aspects of teaching, learning, evaluation, infrastructure, support mechanisms – everything in fact, will be assessed and then accredited by NAAC. Institutions are graded as per their achievements and performances in seven criteria laid down by NAAC and getting an A grade by NAAC is considered very very prestigious by institutions.

So where is the catch? One must remember that NAAC s assessment is based on the documentation which is placed before it. Consequently, if an institution claims that it has made strides in new methods of teaching, NAAC will want to check the documents which will prove this claim.  Documentation therefore is the key to get a good NAAC grade. Institutions and teachers strive throughout the five years to build data and many times create data and documents which will impress the NAAC peer team.  Anybody can realise how terrible this can be, especially since many institutions do not mind creating documents that stretch the truth considerably!!!

The reason why I am talking of NAAC today is because the team is all set to visit our college in late August. Amidst the desperate rush to get everything just right for the big event, there are some incidents which simply get forgotten – sometimes deliberately.

All colleges have to have a grievance redressal cell and a student counselling cell to help, counsel and aid students. Last year, when we were readying the NAAC report one of my fifth semester BA student, who was majoring in English consistently absented herself and was not to be found in the campus at all. I had noticed her right in her first semester since she was a bright Muslim girl, full of life and laughter and was very popular with the opposite sex. Like all small town colleges, ours too is a gossipy nosy one and her freedom and friendship with boys did not take long to reach her family. Very soon her mother was a regular visitor to the college. What I remember seeing was a tall, angry middle aged woman standing guard over a petite, stubborn girl. I thought the mother was overdoing it a bit in this age and time. But soon the tale developed a twist. Reshma, that was the girls name, was supposedly married, a mother of a two year old son and was now divorced.

When she came back to the second year and began her third semester, she was a girl who was far mellower and looked much more grown up. I wondered if I was simply seeing her in a different light. She remained responsive and enthusiastic in her classes and I had little to complain. Her marks were good and I kept telling her that if she tried a little hard she really could work towards a university rank.

Then the third and final year  – two final semesters – and Reshma was not to be seen at all. Finally in September, she deigned to come to my class, just a day before the internal assessment tests. I was furious with her and I bluntly told her that she could not walk in and out of my class as if it was a marriage hall. She bowed her head and refused to speak. I asked her to come and meet me later and when she did asked her if this was her idea of a joke.

The tale that came out then shocked me out of my wits. Apparently, Reshma s mother did not want her to continue her studies, but wanted her to marry. And it was not an ordinary marriage either. Since Reshma herself had been married earlier, she was now being married off to a wealthy middle aged man, (whose age according to Reshma was 54) and had three wives already. Reshma told me he was not very keen on her either and was certainly not romantically inclined – he would marry her, sleep with her, sell her off to somebody else and then divorce her. Her mother was being paid a hefty sum to agree to the match. Stunned and disturbed I decided to speak to her mother. Without mentioning anything against the marriage I told her mother that Reshma was a very bright student and begged – literally begged – her to allow her to complete her graduation. Very very grudgingly her mother agreed to allow Reshma for the time being to attend her IA tests.

In her internal assessment test, Reshma, instead of answering the questions had narrated her side of the miserable story. She said that though her mother had agreed to allow her to finish her studies, it was done only to ward me off. She said her mother would not allow her to live if she refused to marry the aged man. She said she did not want to marry that person under any circumstance because it would only mean prostitution later on. She had to tutor young kids and pay her mother for her and her infant son s upkeep at present.

I again spoke to her and her mother. This time however, I realised that the mother was deliberately avoiding my eyes while assuring me of sending her daughter to the college. I spoke to Reshma separately and told her not to antagonise her mother and to agree to all that she said. Only ask for time, I said. A little time… thats all you need. I gave her the phone numbers of the 24 hour womens help line – Santwana and my own and told her to call me if she needed me.

Then the semester exams were upon us. I watched Reshma as she appeared in a burka everyday and wrote her exams. On the final day I told her to be very careful during the holidays and to come back on January 1st for the last semester.

In January, when college reopened, Reshma was dead. She had died in December and according to people in her family she had committed suicide. Her friends, who were devastated told me that it was cold blooded murder and she had been buried even before anybody could see her body.

I then spoke about this to everybody in the college. I told my students, teachers, friends, everybody and I felt we should do something . I knew I could do nothing alone and sought the support of my friends.  I was advised to just forget it as a bad dream. 

Seven months hence when we are building data for our student conselling cell – on how well we have counselled and helped our students, Reshma refuses to fade away… she lingers and haunts and mocks my efforts to shut her away, refusing to become just another statistic. Can one ever forget?

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1 Response to "NAAC and a forgotten reality.."

this is a really good read, vidya. thank u.

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