Naturally, our bank account was incapable of honouring the amount so his mother paid it from her pension account


By samyr.ahmad

Naturally, our bank account was incapable of honouring the amount so his mother paid it from her pension account

Yet, we were among those fortunate parents whose children managed their own funding and worked their way through their university degrees without the burden of a student loan that they would spend a large part of their working life paying off

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For the last few months, I have watched anxious parents and students scan the lists of admissions into prestigious colleges here and abroad and try and figure how they can get into one. This last year, riddled with the anxieties the pandemic unleashed throughout the world, has hit school-leaving students the hardest. Many were unsure of how they were going to apply to any college and whether they would receive their school leaving certificates in time for them to send their application forms to a college or university.

As admissions to reputed colleges and universities in India started asking for a qualifying percentage that is ludicrous by any standard, many students decided that it was simpler to get admission into a foreign university than go through the humiliation of rejection in their own country. Sadly, though, there are few parents who can really afford the sort of fees that such educational bodies now charge. Earlier, or at least in my generation, Indian students went abroad only after they had completed their graduate studies here.

This state of affairs continued right up to the end of the last century, which is when my own children went abroad to earn their post-graduate and PhD degrees. Once, due to some mix-up, we were late in paying one tranche and the boys came howling to say that their names were put on the school notice board as defaulters. How can you have been so careless?’ I asked my husband and told him to immediately send a cheque. We are now officially robbers of a widow,’ we told her in jest.

Matters are not so rosy now: for one, foreign students are expected to pay far higher fees for the privilege of studying in a university abroad so that their own students can be subsidised. For another, students now do not seem to be aware of what it means for parents to scrape together the fees that their wards take for granted as part of their parental responsibility. Virtually every young person now wishes to go abroad after school and then sits back while parents run around trying to stitch together the money that is required. Quite apart from the enormous pressure placed on young parents, there is the possibility that the child may not be able to handle the courses and decide to slide right back into the loving embrace of the family in India.

A large number never return after that departure, leaving parents lonely and miserable in their old age. Look around and you see the frightening levels of depression among the elderly who have been left alone by their children, who never want to return. Those who left after school will find it difficult to knit themselves back into a social order that has changed drastically since they were young teens. Others have found partners there who are unwilling to leave their natal homes.

Yet, even more pitiful is the fact that many such students consider it their right to demand that their parents arrange the crippling funding that they need for going to a good university abroad. While some parents are able to fork out this fortune because they have the means, others use their power or position to slyly get a friend’ to pay up. Naturally, a return favour is always sought by the friend’ one day.

Ironically, even those who shout loudest about the grand Indian universities that predate any in the world, have succumbed to the temptation of sending their children and grandchildren abroad for higher education. Great Indian universities that have produced generations of brilliant alumni are now slowly sliding into provincialism of the lowest sort. Our private universities have, to some extent, filled this void but their fees are formidable.

Something will have to change; for one, we will have to acknowledge that higher education was never meant for all. Harsh as this may sound, crowding our educational institutions with students who are there just for time-pass’ or a good time will have to become more rigorous about their admission plans. Offering more scholarships to those who have the promise but not the means can only be possible when corporate houses start to open their coffers and mentor deserving candidates.

My husband and I often laughed at how the most stressful time for us was when they were all in school and we had to take loans from his Provident Fund to pay their quarterly fees

Only if we can manage to retain our bright minds till they are old enough to be sensitised to what they can learn in their own countries, will we be able to usher in a generation of mature and compassionate young men and women.


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