TODAY -

A Free Zone for Education - An Imperative for Right to Education in the Hill Areas, Manipur
- Part 2 -

Kimnei Salviana Leivon *

SACSAS School at Maobam In Churachandpur district about 10 kms from Moirang Lamkhai
SACSAS School at Maobam, In Churachandpur district about 10 kms from Moirang Lamkhai :: Pix - SACSAS



However, as experienced in the lived reality of villages in the hill areas of the State, one cannot rely everything on the e-governance system of the Government to a certain level. In reality it is observed that the system of education, as positioned in the Right to Education (RTE) is still vacant indicating that RTE cannot be implemented in the hill areas. Supposedly, Manipur State is one of the States which has taken proactive stance towards RTE and Right to Information (RTI).

The SSA data Manipur section indicates that the State has made tremendous improvment on the elementary education front. However, in reality there is an existence of a complex structure and network of the bureaucratic structure, the local powerful chiefs, local leaders, the rich and the under ground organisations. In such a context the recent policy brought in Manipur and the recruitement of the graduate teachers will have little effect.

As for instance, the local bodies in article no. 9 of the Right to Education Act (RTE) and the commission for the child right although laid down in the rules to RTE still is not able to function at the local level. When it comes to infrastructure development of schools, School Management and Development Committee (SMDC), a committee of fourteen members, as policy has been formed.

However, at the ground reality, SMDC is functioning without a proper system support. What is most worrying to this system is the position of the Chairman and Secretary of the committee in whose names the school bank account is to be opened. In practice, Chairman is in fact the local disbursement officer at the school level. As a rule the school headmistress/headmaster is the chairman.

He/she becomes directly accountable to the financial transactions, accountability and transparency under RTI. The secretary is to be appointed by the committee representing the parents. These office positions have come under criticism from the tribal chiefs in many villages as they would like to be a defacto local disbursement officers at the village level.

Over and above all these, the chairman and secretary are responsible to the local leaders and the undergrounds who also demand a share of the fund coming for the infrastructure development of village schools. In fact off-the-record, it has been observed that atleast 50% of the fund goes to the bureaucratic offices of the education system, local leaders and underground groups.

As observed, in the scheme for one room school building construction under SSA, one headmaster/headmistress of a village returned the mo-ney to the ZEO due to the pressure of demand coming from outside orgaisations. Many schools are being constructed with low quality. As such, the school committee especially the chairman and secretary have become victims of the larger system. Suspension of headmaster/headmistress of schools is likely to come if monitoring system comes into practice.

Besides, there is a grave system problem in education at the level of the primary and elementary education system in the hill region. As a policy, elementary education (class I-VIII) is the focus of the State. However, this becomes critical when one looks at the local bodies for the implementation of the schemes in the hill districts.

As for instance, the district council, now in function has the primary role of primary education in the hill districts. The people usually know it as 'council schools'. The ZEO in the hill districts looks after the the education system above class five. But in the recent times, a focus has been made on RTE covering elementary education; free and compulsory education between the age of 6-14 (class 1-VIII). The SSA schemes is basically handled by the ZEO and runs across all villages and schools in the hill region.

Therefore, ZEO has become more active in the RTE process in the hill areas covering the council schools. Such an emerging system creates a confrontation of systems within in the hill areas; between council system and the zonal system. The system interface (between State system and local system) has not been spelt out in policy as well as in practice at present.

It has become obvious that if the system of education has to be laid effectively, it is imperative that education has to be declared a 'free zone' (free from politics, corruption and financial demands by undergrounds); allow the system to work. Education for children is one of the most fundamental rights which the State is still not in a position to give to the children even with the policy laid. This can be inferred from the number of children enrolled in Government schools.

Many schools are non functioning due to non enrolment of children in spite of incentives (supply of free text books, school uniforms and midday meal) coming from the Government, development of infrastructure and appointment of graduate teachers to the elementary schools especially of the hill districts. Parents opt mainly for private schools.

Good schooling is considered to be enrolment in the private schools. This implies a heavy cost for the children education at the family level. Some parents who are able to afford send their children to private schools in the main city. It implies that the child has to rent an accommodation or stay in a private hostel. As a matter of fact, most of the income of the parents go in school education for their children.

In such a condition, it is further observed that the parents through hard labour are able to support the child to go to private schools but slowly declined to financial problem. As years go by their ability to earn and support the children also decline. At the same time, the cost of education increases persistently. In such a situation the child definitely has a glim chance to go for higher studies. Most of the time the child drops out after the elementary education.

Back to squar one. Based on the above observation, it can be inferred that only parents with some constant income source are able to support their child upto the completion of the higher studies.

In fact, for those who are able, outside colleges are preferred due to the political situation that affects the education process along with the push-pull factor of employment. Therefore, socio-political and economic situations are an intrinsic part of the society triggering a divide between the rich and the poor, middle class and the poor.

As a logical conclusion to this article, I recommend that education sector due to its critical component be declared a 'free zone' by all Government, civil societies, organisations, villages and people in the hill areas. Considering the situation at present, it is presumed that only an environment of politics-free, corruption-free and 'non demand' policy (inclusive of non-demand by all groups such as so called underground, political leaders and bureaucates) on financial investment coming to 'right to education' will allow implementation of right to education in the hill areas.

This would bring in an environment for change; of faith and hope on the Government schools at the elementary level; proper running of the Governent schools in the hill area. If elementary education, 'free and compulsory' (Constitution articles no. 21(A) and Right to Education Act, 2001) is implemented financial burden on the education for children at the elementary education would decline.

This would definitely unleased financial capacities of families and villages towards progress and development. However, the task at hand would go unheeded without the cooperation of the people; the bureaucrats, teachers, parents, students, contractors and undergrounds.

It is opined that this article would provide an idea for the young generations, people, institutions, local bodies and organisations such as student organisations so that people of all sections or ethnic groups of the State would reap the fruits of democracy and good governance, and create space for progressive politics of development, growth and prosperity.óconcluded

Concluded ...


* (Ms) Kimnei Salviana Leivon wrote this article for The Sangai Express. This article was posted on December 12, 2011.


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