Building a better Manipur on the foundation of a rotten education system
- Part 1 -

Puyam Rakesh Singh *

Eurasian common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus chloropus)
A school corridor in Imphal city on 16th Februray 2015 :: Pix : Shankar Khangembam

Manipur became a full-fledged state in 1972 after blood-shed and numerous protests. Since then, the state government has made some half-hearted efforts for building a better Manipur. Above all, education system is one of the most important parts of the whole project that has lost attention of the government. In fact, the education system in Manipur is far below the desirable standard. There is no doubt about it. Do we have some corrective measures?

Frankly speaking, many government schools exist in Manipur but we don't see them. There is enough explanation for this indifferent attitude and utter negligence. But it is not France that suffers because of such thoughtlessness and lack of foresight. Most of us just ignore these schools nowadays. Under the present circumstances, only poor families send their children to these surviving schools. However, some government schools are still exception to this rule.

Citing the crucial role of education, Nelson Mandela said: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world". The change we want to see in Manipur can be made by focusing on the students belonging to the category from Nursery to Class XII. Quality of life in a society is very much related to the quality of education it gets. In addition, the sorry conditions of government schools let the poor suffers a lot in their struggles to make a place in the world.

Many students feel and experience the consequences of such a poorly-maintained school education after reaching major cities such as New Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore for study and work. Those who attended the government schools realise the shortcomings and disappointments of attending such schools. The sincerity of the teaching staff, education department, the parents and hard work of the students are all important to face the competition in the 21st Century.

To start with, ignoring the government schools is a costly affair for all. Generally, parents want to send their children to the best schools in the hope of a better future for them. Many parents belonging to lower middle class and poor background work hard and sacrifice a lot to admit their children into private schools. They all know the importance of education and their investments are sometimes very risky.

Mothers weave hours to maintain the necessary income to pay the school fees and provide the basic necessities. Low income families have to spend a large chunk of income on education of their children. They have to compromise with nutritious food, decent dress, peace of mind and many ends up incurring debts. Again, irregular salary and low per capita income of the families contribute to the burden. These are the realities we see quite clearly. What if the children cannot meet the expectations of the parents after so much sacrifice?

Whether in the government or the private school, the quality of education really matters. There is no harm in having some private schools in the state. Their contributions should not be undermined. In some cases, the government can learn from private institutes in running the schools efficiently. So far, there is little achievement toward efficiency by attending to the teachers, governing bodies and teachers' training. The government schools also neglect the importance of parents/guardians in grooming the future pillars of the society.

To many, it seems the government is neglecting the education system deliberately to provide room for the private schools. The utter neglect of the government and the society's indifference to a vibrant education system is markedly visible. Therefore, the present state of Manipur is a reflection of the society's failure to cope with the problems choking the education system. The first question is: what is stopping the government schools from having proper buildings?

It will not be wrong to say that almost every densely populated village in Manipur has some students in 2015. Most probably, there is at least one school in such a village or nearby villages. As children cannot exist in a vacuum, there are parents and guardians of the students. There is an Education Department (S) to facilitate the construction and governing of the educational institutions. As we have schools, students and teachers, there should be some teacher training institutes to train the recruits for equipping them with the knowledge and ethics of the noble profession. Many join the teaching profession for the sake of getting a job.

The government can also send some teachers every year to premier schools of the country for exposure to learn good things from them. Selected teachers who have made their names by working sincerely for the well-being of the student community should deserve such exposure trips and they should come back with their lessons to share with many of those who have not get the opportunity yet.

Another important fact is the existence of numerous students' unions in the state with their district branches. What can they do to change the education system? If there is a school, there is a sort of governing body. It has to play a crucial role in maintaining the academic atmosphere inside the campus. Besides, every village in Manipur has a youth development organisation to promote the welfare of the village. What can they do? Promotion of the welfare and development of the village cannot be disconnected from a healthy education system.

What kind of welfare and development are we aspiring for without taking care of the temples of learning? When the community leaders and the youth development organisations can give blind eyes to dilapidated schools, there is no point of talking about welfare of the inhabitants. By providing better education to the students in the neighbourhood, a society can avoid many unwanted social elements that create nuisances.

Most importantly, our education system should not disseminate only bookish knowledge. Students should be given opportunities to understand themselves. They should be guided and equipped to become thinkers and doers. They must be led to become the brains, ears, eyes, and mouths of the society for progress and development. Their schools should not be like castles floating in the air with no roots in the soil. Such system will make the students nothing but percentage seekers, degree holders and job-seekers. Some of them end up becoming rich men who do not care about electricity problems, water scarcity, poor transportation, inter-community harmony and various other issues afflicting the society.

They can see the bad roads and other problems like any other human being having good eye-sight. However, their brains are not trained to think of changing the conditions for betterment by joining hands with other concerned beings.

Many of such people have palatial houses, luxurious cars and they care about their health and hygiene. After stepping out from the gate, their decent cocoon lifestyles interact with the lack of transport facilities, bad roads, polluted environment, poor electricity, social tensions and disturbances.

They travel along the stinky market places, inhale the dust, breath in the polluted air and share the problems with friends and colleagues and start the cocoon lifestyles again at home on returning. Is this helping? Some of them do not mind of improving the quality of life beyond the gate and are used to talking about the social evils as favourite pastime. This way of living is the result of an education system that does not allow them to stand on the ground where they were born. This calls for a new generation of people whose education system is rooted in the soil; and who are prepared and trained to analyse the problems. They would find solutions to the problems with the help of their brains and hands. Is it possible without proper school buildings and quality teachers?

To produce such a generation, the students should be brought closer to the socio-economic and political issues of the society where they live. There is no harm in teaching lessons about cultures and societies in other parts of the country and the world at large. However, churning out brains that do not know how to contribute to general welfare and analyse the problems in our society is disastrous. Fortunately, if they become contributors in a far away land, their experiences and knowledge will re-visit the place where they were groomed first.

If they cannot become useful citizens in any part of the world, their education was a very limited success. That calls for some self-introspection and soul-searching. A small and impoverished state like Manipur has no luxury of churning out a large number of such students. Besides, there is the fear of converting the human capital of the state into social parasites that suck the blood of the social organism.

The evil cult of corruption is strong here. As a result, every layer in our social life has been eaten up by the parasites of corruption. The rejection of the progressive values and the multiplication of regressive values in all spheres of life are quite visible. Under the present circumstances, any dream of creating a peaceful society to enjoy the dignity of life will remain a dream.

To strengthen the immune system of our sick society, there are certain measures that can be taken up for a long-term guarantee. A model of community participation in education is necessary to do away with the destructive practices. This community participation model will involve the government, education department, teachers, school governing bodies, students, parents'/guardians' associations, students' union, youth development organisations and community leaders.

To be continued...

* Puyam Rakesh Singhh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on April 08, 2015.

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