From daily wager to academic chaos in Bihar to JNU via CUET, a student’s journey

New Delhi: Nervous yet eager, 22-year-old Adarsh Kumar has his bags packed, ready to make the journey from Bihar to Delhi.

He will start as an undergraduate in Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University next month after having qualified through the Common University Entrance Test (CUET) this year.

But Kumar is not fresh off high school like his classmates. He has already studied around five years as an undergraduate student of Mathematics at Bihar’s trouble-torn Magadh University.

But even after putting in about half a decade of work, Kumar and his batchmates remain without a degree as the university has practically shut down after its vice-chancellor (VC), pro vice-chancellor, registrar and other top officials were arrested for financial fraud of Rs 30 crore.

To add insult to injury, Kumar has never attended a single teacher-taught class in the state university. Students in the state, some confided, mostly attend private coaching classes, or self-study and attend universities only to write exams.

Hundreds of former students from Magadh University are like Kumar, without a degree and looking for alternate options. The 22-year-old himself has had quite a subject detour — from Math to Japanese Studies.

But Kumar is optimistic. Speaking to ThePrint from Bhojpur, he said: “I will be in Delhi on 21 November. In 2018, I worked in Delhi as a daily wager, but now I will be a student of a reputed central university in Delhi. I feel I am one step closer to my dream.”

Kumar was among lakhs who appeared for the CUET in August this year and managed admission for a Bachelor’s degree in JNU.

From a farmer’s family in Bhojpur — with a monthly income of less than Rs 10,000 — he could only afford to take the Japanese language course in JNU.

‘Poor students pay for colleges and coaching classes’

Kumar enrolled in the Magadh University for a B.Sc in Mathematics in 2018. He wrote the first-year examination in January 2020. The second year examination took place in October 2021, and over a year on, only the results of the 2020 exam have been declared.

After spending over four years on the rolls of a state university, hundreds of students like Kumar still do not have an undergraduate degree.

After months of street protests, being beaten up by the police and several other setbacks, the journey for quality education has finally begun for the Bhojpur resident.

Kumar said: “We spent the past few years either protesting or planning a protest. On some days, a graduation degree seemed like an unattainable dream. As students, we completely lost hope. So many of us wanted to appear for the civil service exams. But even if we cleared it, we would still not be eligible for the lack of a Bachelor’s degree.”

The student had appeared thrice for the Indian Air Force exam and once for the Agniveer recruitment test. “I always ended up clearing the written part but failed in the interviews and group discussions because of my poor command over English. Not having a graduate degree was another factor significantly hindering my selection,” Kumar said.

He also said women classmates got married because their families would not wait longer for them to complete the course. “Some of my seniors are now married and have children! We spent hours every day self-studying, but it only led to disappointment,” he added.

The poor state of Magadh University is symptomatic of Bihar’s sad state of affairs in education, sources said.

Professor Subodh Kumar, who teaches in Delhi University and also serves as the national spokesperson of Rashtriya Janata Dal, said: “There are about 262 constituent colleges in Bihar, each of which must have 10 to 12 departments. The average number of students enrolled in every college could range from anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000. This means there are about 30 lakh students on their rolls, and the number of teachers, therefore, should be 3 lakh. But the Bihar government has sanctioned 12,500 teaching posts of which only 5,500 seats have been filled.”

The rest, he said, have been lying empty for years. In addition to these vacancies, is the shortage of non-teaching and examination branch staff. Classes not being held is a very common phenomenon in the state.

The professor added, “Students have no option but to go to private coaching classes for their college education. Poor students have been paying for colleges and coaching classes, and despite that they can’t secure a degree even after five…

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