The Koshi College, in Khagaria, Bihar, is an institution with an illustrious past, being one of the few to have come up immediately before the glorious chapter of Indian Independence. However, its charm is now subdued, with the college having had an acute shortage of teachers since long. Lofty claims of the Bihar government of improving the quality of education – with insufficient teachers in colleges – have proved to be lip-service.
The acute faculty crunch has affected thousands of students from the erstwhile ‘Cambridge of Kosi’ with 35 of the 56 sanctioned posts, nearly 62%, lying vacant. The combined strength of students in Under-Graduation and Post-Graduation courses stands at 5,000. They are grappling with the lack of focused guidance.
The Physics department in the college has had no professor since 2017. The departments of Chemistry, Botany, Zoology, Psychology and Urdu are struggling with just one professor while the departments of History, Hindi, Economics, Commerce, Philosophy and Political Science have two professors each. Only the English department, with three teachers, boasts of some ‘strength’. Post-Graduation (PG) courses in History, Hindi, Political Science and Physics last commenced in 2013. Teacher scarcity has loomed over the college since.
However, university administration seems to be in no hurry to fill vacant posts despite the serious shortage. Bihar State University Service Commission (BSUSC) is the authorised body which recruits teachers and professors in universities and colleges.
Established on January 8, 1947, Koshi College was among the pioneering institutions in the region which inherited the promise to impart quality education to aspiring minds in an independent India. The credit for its foundation and existence belongs to the then Sub-Divisional Officer (S.D.O) of Khagaria, late Harvansh Narayan Singh, who played a pivotal role in turning a place laden with devastation and deprivation into one with educational values. Having been affiliated to Bihar University, Muzaffarpur, since its inception it became a constituent of Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University (TMBU) in 1975 and finally came under Munger University in 2018.
While expressing his anguish about the state of the university, Anand Kumar Singh, former professor, Department of History, told NewsClick that the institution was ailing due to the imbalance in the teacher-student ratio. He said that the Department of Physics’ lack of a professor was a “shame for an institution that emerged as a source of hope to thousands” when no institution stood in three neighbouring districts.
“As general secretary of Bhagalpur University Teachers’ Association (BHUTA) I have been raising concerns over vacancies in all departments, including history, with the acting Vice-Chancellor of the university but we have not had serious gains. The dying will-power of the state government and recruiting agencies has been exposed,” he said.
To add to the students' woes, the faculty in at least 17 constituent colleges under Munger University are inadequate with all functioning without a principal. Moreover, Munger University’s Vice-Chancellor, R.K. Verma, has been reportedly restrained from taking policy decisions as his tenure was about to end soon, the former professor said.
Science Department, Koshi College
According to Prof. Tausif Mohsin, head of the English Department, the college had a proud track record of being the hallmark of fair examinations which were alien to “exam-mafia pressure. It remains untouched by nepotism of any kind,” he said. In the recent recruitment drive by the Bihar Public Service Commission (BPSC), Koshi College alumni were among its chosen candidates, enough proof of its potential.
The college management is preparing for an upcoming National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) visit in the following week.
The perennial shortage of teachers is not its sole challenge. The misuse of existing faculty is another issue. Most professors are forced by the administration to take on the higher secondary evaluation process, an exercise which exerts unnecessary pressure on a scarce teaching staff.
Prof Tausif questioned the “dubious-decision making” and “absurd penalising” of teaching staffers from the UG and PG departments.
As per Ritesh Kumar, a post-graduate student of Political Science, the department was devoid of teachers in 2019 but has got two professors recently. Students have had a difficult time without teachers and the infrastructure – such as the common room – was said to be lacking extra-curricular facilities.
Aside from the faculty, the college has a shortage of non-teaching staff too. Only 15 clerical posts were filled against 26 sanctioned posts while there were 16 out of 36 grade four staff members. The college campus, spread over 28 acres, lacks a girls hostel too.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s often remarked that he would take the state’s education to dizzying heights but crumbling institutions belies his claims. It was reflected in the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) conducted by the MHRD in 2015-16 which ranked Bihar at the bottom, with lowest college and university density and high enrollment despite a highly adverse teacher-pupil ratio and a gross enrollment ratio (GER) of just 12.9.
Bihar’s education system has come under fire of educationists and the high court for its deteriorating quality. It was not even spared by former governor of the state, who took dig at its pitiful condition. “I am happy to share that the universities of Odisha are doing better than the universities in Bihar. There is a mafia rule in the education system in Bihar. Exams are not done properly and there is no academic calendar,” former governor Satya Pal Malik had said.
The writer is freelance journalist based in Bihar.