In Kashmir valley, the students belonging from remote areas or underprivileged families mostly prefer to continue their education through online or distance mode. The regional director Srinagar of Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Dr Kamlesh Meena in an interview with Rising Kashmir’s Education Correspondent Riyaz Bhat says that the university has always been trying to cover the uncovered areas and to reach the unreached segment of the society who are living in far-flung areas.
Here are the excerpts
What is the role of IGNOU in providing education to the students of Kashmir with special reference to students from under privileged families or fromfar-flung areas?
First of all, we need to understand what IGNOU is all about. This is the University for Open Distance Learning (ODL) education system. The University in India was launched in 1985 with a reason that most of the people were lacking the higher educational institutions to go for higher studies.
Look, conventional education can never be the solution for higher studies because a large section of people either belong from underprivileged families or are living in far flung areas wherein regular education is not possible for them. In the conventional education system, every student necessarily has to remain present in the educational institute which is not possible for most of the students of remote areas. There is where IGNOU plays an important role in providing education to them.
How is IGNOU imparting education to the students who can’t afford to go for higher studies?
This vision of the IGNOU is to cater the three types of students that include those who belong from the far-flung areas, the marginalized section or the underprivileged students who cannot afford to pay an hefty amount to enroll themselves for regular higher education and those students who are in-service of government and cannot peruse regular education simultaneously while being in service.
What are the major developments that took place in your tenure?
Since I took over the charge of IGNOU regional centre Srinagar, we have taken so many initiatives to benefit the students of Kashmir valley. We have established several sub-centres for the convenience of the students across Kashmir valley and Ladakh. Presence of IGNOU nowadays is not only at district level but at block level too. Within the span of 22 years of existence, Regional Centre Srinagar has enrolled over 4 Lakh learners and emerged as one of the largest regional centres across the country.
People have a perception that IGNOU is the last priority to pursue higher education. How do you see it?
No, the mindset and that perception have changed now. See, in July 2021 and January 2022 admission sessions, IGNOU enrolled over 53,577 students across Kashmir valley.
Talk about the diverse areas of specialisations that IGNOU is offering to students?
Look, IGNOU is the only University in Kashmir that is offering 194 Academic Programmes starting from certificates Diplomas, Advance Diplomas, PG Diplomas, Bachelors and Masters in various disciplines. The professional Programmes being offered including MBA, MPB Banking and Finance, MCA, BCA, MLIS, BLIS, MTTM (Masters in Tourism and Travel Management), Master’s Degree in Dietetics and Food service Management (MSCDFSM), Counseling and family Therapy (MSCCFT), Diploma in Hospital Management, Maternal, and Child Health, Geriatric Medicine, Information Security, B.ed, Bachelor and Diploma Programmes in Nursing, etc Many students of Jammu and Kashmir are also pursuing IGNOU’s M.Phil/PhD, which are being offered from IGNOU Headquarter based on the UGC regulations. Out of a total of 281 programmes, 194 programmes have been activated at IGNOU regional centre Srinagar. During the COVID-19 period, IGNOU Srinagar has launched nearly 45 new programmes for the students. Among the new programmes, we have introduced MA Journalism, Information and Security Science, Entrepreneurship programmes, MA Urdu, Sustainable Development, Urban Studies. Besides, we have launched MSC Environmental Science programmes wherein more than 4,000 students have got admissions this year. IGNOU Srinagar is the only regional centre which has recorded the highest number of admissions in this subject across India.
How many study centers IGNOU have currently?
Presently, we have 46 Learner Support Centres (LSCs) in Kashmir. In almost every district, we have 2-4 study centers.
What aboutthe mechanism of resolving the student grievances if they have any?
We have started to maintain the visiting register. We note down the grievances of the students and try to resolve it within the 24 hours. In the past 7-8 months, we have resolved nearly 33,000 grievances of the students that took place because of the uncertainty and COVID-19.
Is IGNOU providing any scholarships to its students?
Yes, IGNOU does provide the scholarships to the students. The students belonging from the labor category and have the labor card are being provided the scholarships and previously we have provided 10,000 scholarships to the students belonging from the labor category. Besides, we have reservation for the students for the students who are applying for the national level scholarship via National Portal Scholarship (NSP). We also have some free programmes for the Schedules Caste and Scheduled Tribe students. We do not charge a single penny from them. Previously, 84 SC and ST students were provided free education by IGNOU Srinagar.
How many jail inmates are enrolled in IGNOU regional centre Srinagar?
We have almost 110 jail inmates of Srinagar jail who are pursuing different courses from IGNOU. We have provided them with an exam centre in the Jail only. They are not being charged anything by the IGNOU for the admission. Besides, we also provide them with free study material.
Is there any provision of re-admission for those students who have enrolled themselves in IGNOU and have left the studies untimely?
See, earlier, there used to be enough time to complete any of the Bachelors or Matters programme. However, nowadays under the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) there is no provision of re-admission and every student has to complete their respective programme within the minimum and maximum stipulated time. For example, if any course has a minimum of three and maximum of six years duration, the student is supposed to complete it within that particular time.
Can any non-local person from outside get admission in IGNOU regional centre Srinagar?
In IGNOU, there is an admission facility to those people who are working in Kashmir. Be it from the civil services or central government employees, paramilitary forces, Army. We have a huge number of such non-local students in IGNOU who are in service. Moreover, the persons who are working in any private sector can also get admission in this regional centre.