Building a better Manipur on the foundation of a rotten education system
- Part 2 -

Puyam Rakesh Singh *

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

Every child wants to have good dress. Identifying oneself with a school in a dilapidated school having no proper rooms and benches is shameful. The necessities for running a school should be provided without fail. A proper school building is a must. We can see that most of the government schools in Manipur are in bad shape. Is it because of poor budgetary allocation? It will be sinful to blame the budget.

Why can't we have government schools with proper buildings and infrastructures? Is the government promoting its brand of school in shabby conditions for the sake of the private schools? The answer does not seem to be so simple. The Public Works Department (PWD) or any other authorised agency should have the sole mechanism to implement the projects such as construction, renovation and supplies.

The streamlining of the funding can help in improving accountability of the fund use and quality control. A public private partnership (PPP) model can be used to hire companies with credibility under the supervision of the PWD. If so, any failure in quality control can be traced to the functionaries of the PWD and the concerned company. Law can take its own course to penalise any wrong action. Are there many stakeholders working against such proposal?

By employing the PWD engineers and architects, the state government can give them chance to practice their engineering and architectural skills for refinement. As the PWD cannot work for profit, the involved agents are not supposed to sell cement bags and iron rods for earning extra income. No serious attempt has been ever made by the people of Manipur to understand the behind-the-scenes operation of the whole business. The truth is known to a sizeable number of the population but there is no open debate on it.

If education is the backbone or soul of a society, those who work against the welfare of the student community are the enemies of the society. These brains that indulge in pocketing public funds are nothing but social parasites. They think about few hundred thousand rupees and forget the fate of the pillars of the society. There can be blame game. Interestingly, percentage cuts are favourite terms in Manipur. Now, sacrificing education on the altar of percentage cuts is our tradition and custom. We have been programmed to get used to it.

Who is cutting percentage from the fund meant for education? They must be a category of people who want to destroy our human capital and ruin the society. Some remarkable brains are employed to blur the images of those who are responsible for corruption in education system. For your kind informa- tion, our society does not mind as long as one is rich and successful. There are flower gardens to make garlands for the rich-but-corrupt beings.

Parents do not see the dilapidated government schools. Instead, they see the private school as the best alternative to send their children. The children also like the well-furnished private schools. A government school is the second and the worst alternative. Consequently, many private schools have opened a 'market of bright students' to enrol them in their schools.

The students who are potential toppers have to advertise the respective schools when they get top positions.

To produce toppers, some school owners search for teachers who can filter important questions that would be in the question papers. It encourages cramming. Cramming for scoring high marks should not be the strategy but a tactics in a student's career. Promoting a school by enrolling few would-be position holders also sends wrong message to other students. It singles out few students as the cream among many while labelling, consciously or unconsciously, many students as average doers or inferior also-rans. Such treatments because of higher marks can teach partiality and favouritism to the young minds.

Despite all these, it will be wrong to tarnish all teachers because of few black sheep in the herd. Commercialisation of school education for money and fame is driving students to seek higher percentage without understanding the subjects well. Scoring high marks in the exam is every student's dream and there is nothing wrong about it. But when the percentage-oriented education system produces youths who cannot face the tough realities of the world, the society as a whole suffers.

Efficiency, competitiveness and state-of-the-art infrastructures for students should not be surrendered to commercialisation. Some strict criteria should be set for issuing license/approval for private schools to promote quality education and social advancement. Only people with long history of dedicated service in the education sector and people of credible background should be encouraged to contribute to educational development. Thugs and social parasites should not guide the children.

If we want to change Manipur to make it a better place to live in, proper education is the best means to do so. Agreeing to this point demands a call of duty to organise the greatest festivals of the state in the educational premises that involve the students, teachers, education department, community leaders, parents/guardians, students' unions and local youth development organisations/clubs. There is no other better way.

This strategy can be called "one roof, one goal" strategy to bring the stakeholders under a single roof to debate the intimate issues regarding education, human resource development, social change and collective responsibility. Failure to organise such festivals in and around the educational premises/campuses for a progressive Manipur will be really costly for all. The focus should be on saplings that are still alive.

Government schools having minimal infrastructures and tolerable teacher-student ratio should be the first target. It can be further extended to empty spaces where there is absence of government schools because of neglect or recent demise due to non-availability of students. Students' unions, parents, local youth organisations and community leaders should start asking simple questions. One can start with the question: why is the school in our village without roof? Without such questions, Manipur will meet its ultimate fate that we all want to avoid. For realising it, the offices of the education department and school campuses must become the sites of protests for a better society.

When the government school is the worst alternative, the parents don't mind spending more money for admitting their children into private schools. The rich can do it without much pain but the poor families have to sacrifice a larger chunk of the income. Because of this, a child's schooling from Nursery to Class X is a very costly investment for many families. What if we can attend the government schools for cheaper and better education? Many families in Manipur will save money every month. That sum can be invested on other productive and useful activities of the family.

If students, students' unions, parents and community leaders can join hands to press the government to take care of dereliction of duty by teachers and lack of infrastructures, the party constituting of the teachers, schools governing body and parents can work in co-operation to encourage the students to learn their lessons well. A better society standing on the foundation of a rotten education system is the fantasy of a day-dreamer. The bottom line is to urge the state to provide better education. Long Live Education!


* Puyam Rakesh Singhh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on April 13, 2015.

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