Kerala SSLC results are out. The General Education Directorate deserves kudos for having conducted the examinations smoothly during the Covid crisis and for publishing results without much delay. As can be expected, with the SSLC results being published, parents will now be in the hurry and anxiety to admit their wards for higher studies. In that respect, we are constrained to harp on a matter dealt with seveal times in this column, i.e. Kerala is suffering from an appalling geographical imbalance in the matter of facilities for higher studies. Governments of the day, alternating between two political fronts for the last several decades, have so far miserably failed to ensure higher education facilities in Malabar in proportion to its population. The gap is still unfilled.
If figures are invoked, there would be a copious volume of it to quote. In Malappuram district, 76,633 have qualified for higher studies through SSLC. But there are only 52,100 seats available across different institutions in higher secondary, Vocational Higher Secondary Course (VHSC) Technical Higher Secondardy Course (THSC), polytechnic and Industrial Training Institute (ITI) streams. In other words, 24,533 students of this district do not have facilities for higher studies. Even the top students of the district will have to struggle for securing seats in their stream of choice. The state of affairs is almost the same in all other districts in Malabar. The deficit in seats in other Malabar districts are 1455 in Thrissur, 11,117 in Palakkad, 7,203 in Kozhikode, 1,804 in Wayad, 3,840 in Kannur and 5,784 in Kasargod.
This phenomenon of seat shortage is not of nascent origin, but has been there for years. There is a also a stranger and unfair flip side: while tens of thousands of parents and students run earth and heaven for seats in Malabar, in all districts in southern Kerala except Kollam, the number of seats available is higher than of the SSLC qualified. The excess numbers go like this: Thiruvananthapuram-2,054; Pathanamthitta-1,865; Alappuzha-58; Kottayam-1,676; Idukki-160, Ernakulam-727. It is in Kerala, a state fabled as a birth place of balanced development and social justice that such a glaring discrimination exists - surplus seats in one part of the state, and huge deficit in another. Still, how long have been strutting with the hype of Kerala model!
And let there be no mistaking that this discrimination applies only to the number of seats in higher secondary level. The average state ratio of degree level seats versus the higher secondary passes is 21.11 per cent. But all districts of Malabar are below this average ratio, Malappuram being the most disadvantaged with 10.18. The picture in post-graduate seats is no different, if not worse.
As a matter of fact, the discrimination against Malabar is not limited to the field of education. Take any area of governmental services, and one will encounter the same bleak picture. It is only because various student organisations and educational activists have been highlighting this issue for years that at least the education sector has won some attention of late. But their clamour with this demand aside, alternating governments have not taken them up in earnestness so far. The routine action for higher secondary level is to issue a notification a few days before classes begin every year, increasing a percentage of seats. This will not serve any purpose when it mostly creates a situation of students crowding inside classrooms with inadequate size. The governmental approach looks like that of letting students of Malabar study with only that much of amenities. But then the boast about Kerala model will still continue!