Years ago, Madras’s Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan ran a successful journalism course. I do not know exactly when the Bhavan started offering the course – it might have been in the 1950s or early 1960s. From old-timers, I understand that the course was well received and classes were generally packed with about 40-50 students, thanks mainly to the excellent faculty. When I was a student at the Bhavan’s in the early 1990s, I was probably the oldest in the class of 25-odd, which had a fair sprinkling of girls; many were in their early 20s but I don’t think there was anyone who had touched 30. A few years later, I returned to the Bhavan as lecturer and handled classes in reporting and editing. During all those years, the Bhavan continued to exude its own charm and I felt happy giving back something to the institution. And, of course, being in the midst of a young crowd. Otherwise, you wouldn’t travel once every week all the way to Mylapore, braving the rush around the Kapaleeswarar Temple, for all of Rs 150, would you?
During the late 1990s, attendance for the journalism course at the Bhavan dipped and oftentimes I would enter the classroom to see only five or six students present. And that was how I gradually lost the enthusiasm to teach there. Later, one year, I heard that the journalism class was called off, and I haven’t heard of classes resuming there since.
I was reminded of the Bhavan recently when I was given the responsibility of coordinating a postgraduate diploma course in journalism for the SRM School of Journalism & Mass Communication’s evening programme in West Mambalam, at the SRM Nightingale School. Once the advertisements appeared, I received about 20 calls, mostly from students who were pursuing their graduation degrees. There were calls from others who were working, and one middle-aged man who said he was hell-bent on studying journalism and that he was a loyal reader of several newspapers for years. Almost all those who called seemed intent on joining the course, especially when I mentioned that the faculty would be an eminent one.
However, when I enquired from the SRM corporate office about the number of admissions, I was very surprised to learn that not one person had formally applied or paid the fee! That was two weeks after the advertisements appeared. So, what was keeping them away? Was it the fee? Is Rs 12,750 too much for a nine-month course? I wonder!